Mike D'Antoni's offensive system has the potential to jump-start or revive careers. Just ask Jeremy Lin. Or Steve Novak. Or Leandro Barbosa. Or Amar'e Stoudemire.
If you wait long enough, you'll be able to ask Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers as well. Since the ever-tumultuous forward has journeyed into the Land of Make Believe, his production has been just that—imaginary.
When he came to the Lakers in 2009, they thought they were getting the then-Ron Artest that was fresh off a season in which he averaged over 17 points on 45.3 percent shooting. They thought they were getting a star.
Well, they were wrong.
In his first three seasons with the Lakers, he averaged a paltry 9.1 points on 40.1 percent shooting. He's set career lows in scoring in each season he has spent in Los Angeles, and his perimeter defense has slowly deteriorated as well.
Upon the 2012-13 crusade's inception, it was clear World Peace was valuable because of his defensive potential—not execution, but potential—and nothing else. He was now not only an offensive afterthought but a liability.
He did hardly anything to prove the contrary once the season began. Aside from an other worldly performance against the then-winless Detroit Pistons, World Peace was once again a washout.
But then Mike Brown was fired, and things began to change—World Peace began to change.
He struggled a bit in the first game outside the confines of the Princeton offense, putting up just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Then came the Sacramento Kings, whom he torched for 18 points on an efficient 6-of-11 from the floor. He was then promptly came back down to earth against the San Antonio Spurs immediately after.
Since then, however, D'Antoni's offense has been put into full effect, and over the next three games, World Peace averaged 18 points on 52.9 percent shooting, including a 42.6 percent clip from beyond the arc.
And that's no coincidence.
D'Antoni's offense spreads the floor and forces opposing defenses to make snap decisions, which usually culminate in them swarming the most potent scorers. That, in turn, leaves a less-respected shooter like World Peace wide open on the perimeter. A lot.
This is an offense D'Antoni has trademarked over the years, a system in which he has altered and subsequently authored. And he himself (via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com) admits that World Peace's transformation is inevitable within such an offensive blueprint:
"He should be wide open every time," D'Antoni said after World Peace scored 17 pts on 6-of-13 shooting in the Lakers' 95-90 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. "He was 4-for-9 on 3s. He'll get 10 a game and I told him he needs to make 4-of-10 every game. And he can do that. That's 40 percent and that's pretty good so he'll do that. I think he'll do that every game. He's going to be up there (averaging) 17-20 points."
Most wouldn't peg World Peace for a 40 percent shooter from behind the rainbow. He's accomplished such a feat just once in his career, and that came nearly 10 years ago with the Indiana Pacers.
Yet to question D'Antoni's system, the same system that has helped fuel the rise of shooters like Barbosa and Novak is futile. The simple fact is, any player with legitimate range can become a three-point crusher if they're open.
Playing alongside a scorer like Kobe Bryant and dominant big men like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol ensures World Peace will spend the majority of his time open. His job from there is to knock down those uncontested looks, something he's more than capable of doing.
Let's not forget that this is the same player—different name—who has averaged 15 or more points eight times over the course of his career. He's also shot above 35 percent from downtown seven times, which is the equivalent of over 40 percent in a system like D'Antoni's.
No longer will World Peace be attempting to develop an offensive flow despite receiving fewer than 10 shots per game. No longer will he be considered a nonfactor on offense. No longer will he be considered a vat of lost potential.
Instead, he'll become the player the Lakers envisioned him being when they brought him in over three years. Because that's just what D'Antoni's free-flowing, defense-killing offense does—it extracts every last bit of potential out of its incumbents.
And World Peace will be no different—he's already proven to be no different. He's hitting more of his shots, running the floor with purpose after defensive stops and even hitting the glass at a higher rate than he has for most of his career.
Should we expect the forward to grace the presence of another NBA All-Star Game?
Absolutely not, but expecting him to produce at a star-esque level on a team for which he is an overlooked role player among a bevy superstars is anything but inconceivable.
For all of D'Antoni's tactical shortcomings, he certainly knows his offense. If he says World Peace is going to score in excess by design, then we've got to believe him. Especially if the numbers support his hypothesis.
Which is one of the reasons the Lakers have so much to play for moving forward. Not just because Nash will eventually return or because Kobe is on pace to have the most efficient season of his career, or even because Howard should emerge as the league's most active big man—but also because World Peace's career will be revitalized, because he's finally going to become a two-way force.
And because, by season's end, World Peace will be more Ron Artest than the man formerly known as Ron Artest ever was.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 21st, 2012
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