It's easy to forget that the Los Angeles Lakers still have five players in their starting lineup.
If there were one team in this league that could pull off a four-on-five victory, this is it.
But it would be a mistake to sell Metta World Peace short, and an even bigger mistake to ignore what he'll mean to the Lakers' re-tooled offense. To hear assistant coach (and Princeton offense mastermind) Eddie Jordan explain it, the 32-year-old could quietly serve as one of the system's most valuable contributors (via Lakers' reporter Mike Trudell):
"Metta World Peace is the prototypical forward in this offense. He can make perimeter shots, he’s a slasher, he’s a willing passer and he can post up. And when he’s doing that action, maybe Kobe or Steve is getting a flare. Maybe Dwight’s rolling in on the other box. All the misdirection in the offense is supposed to benefit there. He’s tailor made more than anybody there is on the team."
That's high praise from a guy who would know what kind of forwards are built for the Princeton offense.
It's also good news for anyone worried that World Peace has become the one weakness on an otherwise elite team. He won't score more than seven or eight points a game at this juncture, but the last thing Los Angeles needs is another prolific scorer in that starting unit.
They need a guy who can knock down open shots and move without the ball. Given Metta's limited ball-handling ability, he'll be more than happy to do those two things.
He'll also be more equipped to do those things thanks to his improved conditioning.
More than any skill or physical tool, though, World Peace will succeed in this offense precisely because he's so forgettable. This isn't the guy you typically associate with the word "forgettable," but it's an apt description in this case.
The guy checking World Peace when the Lakers have the ball is far more likely to be the one helping on double-teams (and there will be plenty of double-teaming going on).
And when rotating to open shooters, World Peace will be the one who stays open the longest, especially when the other choices are Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
World Peace will get his looks, either by drifting out to the perimeter or cutting to the basket and losing his defender. He'll get the easy looks, the ones coaches are willing to give up when facing so many dangerous scorers, and he'll get even more of them with the ball moving so frequently and keeping the defense guessing.
Sure, Jordan might be giving the guy a bit too much credit.
More importantly, while he's certainly capable of scoring in different ways, it won't be easy for him to develop much of a rhythm with so many other scorers on the floor. Even if the Princeton results in him getting more touches, it's hard to imagine him getting more shots.
That could be just as well, too. World Peace hasn't shot better than 41 percent from the field since 2007-08.
Indeed, World Peace's greatest value will be as a smart passer. After 13 years in this league, he understands the game, bringing a basketball I.Q. to the table making him an ideal candidate for a system fundamentally premised on reading and reacting to defensive schemes.
It may not be the most glamorous role, but it's an important one.
Metta will happily leave all the glamor to Dwight Howard.
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