How Metta World Peace Fits in the New Los Angeles Lakers Offense
When you think about what makes Metta World Peace the player he is, offense isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Over the course of his NBA career, he's made his name on the defensive end of the floor and will likely always be viewed through the prism of how he plays on that side of the ball.
Perceptions are hard to change, after all.
In the 2012-13 campaign, however, Metta will need to be more than just a defensive ace for the Los Angeles Lakers to be as good as they can be. He'll need to find his niche on offense and find a way to be effective on that side of the ball.
How he fits in offensively actually isn't that complicated.
In fact, the blueprint is right there in front of us, as all he'll need to do is play to his strengths and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to him due to the quality of his teammates.
In the 2012-13 season, Metta will be surrounded by more offensive talent than at any other point in his career. Playing next to players the quality of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard will mean that Metta is sure to be the man left open when defenses shift and rotate to his more feared teammates. When this occurs, it will be up to Metta to set his feet and shoot the ball with confidence.
Simply spotting up can not be the only way Metta contributes on offense, though.
He is too talented a player to walk around the arc and play a role more suited to Kyle Korver. He will need to flash the other aspects of his game and take advantage of the space afforded to him in different ways.
One way he can do this is by attacking off the dribble.
Once Metta shows he is willing to take jumpers, the threat of him standing alone on the perimeter will force defenders to close out on him. No NBA coach wants his team surrendering wide open jumpers on a consistent basis (especially from a career 34-percent shooter from behind the arc) and this will open up driving lanes.
And when they open up, Metta can pounce.
Metta will also need to find ways to work within the construct of the Lakers' sets.
And, sneakily, this is where he can do a fair amount of damage to defenses that do not respect his ability to use his physical attributes and smarts to his advantage.
Posting up is a natural way for Metta to hurt defenses most easily. He possesses a natural strength in establishing position while also showing a natural affinity for sealing his man and then presenting a big target to receive entry passes.
Once he gets to his spot, he becomes difficult to uproot and can then create easy shots for himself in the paint.
Getting into the paint can also be achieved through wrinkles in the Lakers' sets.
One of the key aspects of the Princeton offense is the pinch post sequence, where a big man works at the elbow, and a wing (or two wings, depending on the variation) cuts off the big man's shoulder to try either to get a handoff or to dive hard to the basket for a backdoor cut.
This sequence is very similar to sets the Lakers have run historically (both under former coach Phil Jackson in the Triangle and current manager Mike Brown) and is one that MWP has had good success with.
Once Metta has established himself as a scorer, he can then start to explore the aspects of his game where he creates for others as a playmaker and distributor.
Metta has long been an underrated passer, possessing a nice feel for when his teammates break open and then possessing the ability to deliver a pass on time and on target for an assist.
Being surrounded by big men who can catch and finish will only aid in Metta's play-making ability, and he'll have several chances a game to deliver passes to Pau and Dwight when they cut and move within the Lakers' sets.
He should prove successful at this, whether he's hanging around the perimeter or working off the dribble, drawing a crowd and then dishing to a teammate that can finish.
Metta may not be a featured player within the Lakers' offense. With talented teammates flanking him, it would be foolish to turn him into a primary option at the expense of those guys.
However, Metta has proven over the years to have a varied skill set that can be put to full use in the offense the Lakers will run.
By utilizing his shooting, slashing, post up work and play-making, the Lakers can work Metta into sets all over the court and allow him to play to his strengths.
And if that happens consistently throughout the season, opponents may find themselves in even more trouble defending the Lakers than they thought they would be.
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