When Pau Gasol returned to the starting lineup, it was a unanimous expectation that he would reclaim his role as the starting power forward. What no one expected, however, was the repercussion of Metta World Peace becoming a reserve.
With that being said, benching MWP is the only way for head coach Mike D'Antoni's system to work.
According to Mike Trudell of TWC SportsNet, coach D'Antoni appears to have bought into that train of thought. After relegating MWP to the role of a reserve against the Charlotte Bobcats, D'Antoni seemed to hint that the move is long-term.
This could slot Kobe Bryant and Jodie Meeks as the potential starters on the wings:
Since D'Antoni wants to leave MettaWP on the bench so he can play PF, D'Antoni doesn't mind starting Kobe/Meeks as the wings.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 19, 2012
Whether or not starting Bryant and Meeks together is the right move remains to be seen. Utilizing MWP as the sixth man, however, is an undeniably intelligent move.
Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles reports that D'Antoni has made the move to make the game easier on World Peace's legs:
“I want (World Peace) to play the four,” D’Antoni said. “We have to be able to change our team. I hate it for Jordan Hill right now, because he's the odd man out. He's played well. He's a good player. But for us to have a different team, a different look, Metta has to play the four. If he starts at the three, then once I get him to the four, it's too many minutes for him. He needs rest. So that's a whole process. And I think Metta, going forward, once he gets more comfortable with the four role, will be very productive as a four and our team will be very productive.”
This may not be the move you'd expect, but World Peace is a great fit for the 4 under coach D'Antoni. From his defensive tenacity to his floor-spacing jump shooting, MWP's shift to the 4 could very well save the Lakers' season.
Even if it does damage Jordan Hill's chances of receiving his deserved playing time.
Bringing Back the Chip
During his first game as a reserve, Metta World Peace showed the Charlotte Bobcats that his bad-boy mentality lives on.
Playing as a hybrid forward, MWP finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four personal fouls. In other words, he was aggressive on both ends of the floor and played his most physical game of the season.
Expect more of the same in this role.
With a move to the bench, World Peace will see the chip return to his powerful shoulders. He'll be out to prove that he remains one of the better forwards in the game, all the while playing physical on- and off-ball defense.
The player formerly known as Ron Artest now has the motivation to leave it all on the court.
The key to Mike D'Antoni's system is having the necessary pieces to run the floor and score at a fast pace. Although Metta World Peace is in the best shape of his Lakers career, he pales in comparison to the likes of Jodie Meeks, Devin Ebanks and Earl Clark from an athletic standpoint.
Which is why he must play the 4 and allow said players to step in at small forward.
Meeks has already been speculated as an option to play in a small-ball lineup alongside Kobe Bryant. His elite three-point shooting complements quickness unparalleled by any other Laker.
Ebanks and Clark, meanwhile, have an uncanny ability to run the floor and leap out of the building. Something MWP can't do in the fashion he once did.
Against the Charlotte Bobcats, Metta World Peace shot just 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. Although the amount of attempts should be reduced, this is the level of aggression coach Mike D'Antoni desires from his 4.
MWP's job is to throw up the three-ball, space the floor and allow the pick-and-roll to flourish between where he and Jodie Meeks are located: the opposite corners.
For the season, World Peace is shooting 37.0 percent from three-point range. More importantly, Metta is shooting 42.2 percent on corner threes—the area he will be delegated to most often in this new role.
With World Peace placed in the area of the floor where he is at his best, his scoring efficiency should improve. More importantly, the Lakers' offense should thrive with a capable floor-spacer raining threes.
It may not be what World Peace likes to hear, but a move to the bench is the best possible move for the team and his career.