Metta World Peace's Sixth Man Role Will Be Silver Bullet for Lakers Bench Woes
Much like Steve Nash means everything to the fashion and function of Los Angeles' star-studded core, World Peace is a cure-all for a Lakers bench that's about as effective as Muggsy Bogues playing center.
I'd like to say I was exaggerating, but I'm not.
Last season, Los Angeles' bench was dead last in the NBA with 20.5 points scored. They shot just 41.6 percent from the floor overall and a dastardly 33.9 percent from beyond the arc.
As if their self-inflicted offensive woes weren't enough, the Lakers reserves allowed 32.9 points per contest, ninth-most in the league and a mark that ensured they were outscored by 12.4 per night.
Just like I wished I could say the Bogues reference was overkill, I wish I could now say Los Angeles' pine-riders have changed. But they haven't.
The Lakers bench is currently scoring just 25.5 points per game, third-worst in the Association. It's also shooting a lukewarm 42.4 percent from the field while allowing opponents to score 33.6 points a bout.
So yeah, not much has changed in Hollywood outside of the starting lineup.
World Peace is about to get his second-unit savior on.
The Lakers small forward turned power forward has spent the last few games coming off the bench in Mike D'Antoni's attempt to both inject some life into Los Angeles' second-tiered cavalry and cover up the disaster that has become Antawn Jamison.
Bold? Of course. Questionable? Absolutely not.
From the start, D'Antoni believed (via Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com) that Metta would be a productive asset off the bench:
I want (World Peace) to play the four. 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.
Well, it's safe to say he wasn't wrong.
Since World Peace has joined the second-unit, the Lakers are undefeated. Understandably, some might believe this is more a result of Los Angeles' current hot streak, that the Lakers have laid claim to measurable success on the heels of the starting five and nothing more.
And yet that hasn't been the case. The fact that a bulk of Los Angeles' recent stretch of borderline excellency has coincided with World Peace's relegation to the bench is no coincidence.
In his first three games since assuming the sixth man role, World Peace is averaging 19 points and 6.3 rebounds on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from behind the rainbow. Just in case you're wondering, those are marks that trounce his career averages of 14.2, 4.8, 41.8 and 34.4, respectively.
Still believe this is one of those unexplainable coincidences?
I will admit that Los Angeles has relinquished an average of 34.3 points per contest to opposing reserves during this span, but I expect this to change.
Partly because Mike D'Antoni's system looks great on World Peace, and partly because it really can't get much worse for the Lakers' bench. Bust mostly, I'm fully aware of what World Peace brings as a sixth man.
On the season, Los Angeles is scoring at a rate of 111.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. When he parks he behind on that bench, though, that rating falls to 101.7. The Lakers also allow nine fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood (103.7) than with him off (112.7).
USA TODAY Sports
For a team that is routinely outscored and out-manned within the second-unit, this is huge. World Peace provides both scoring and a strong defensive presence. More importantly, his impact is one that stretches beyond the individual stat line, one that generates team-wide results.
Will Metta World Peace's presence on the bench solve the Lakers' second-unit woes?
How is that not going strengthen Los Angeles' bench?
Those are three of the most talented teams in the league, and they carry a top five second unit in terms of points scored.
With four of five current starters being perennial All-Stars, I'm inclined to say that the Lakers have enough firepower coming out of the tunnel.
As far as off the bench goes, though? The same has not been able to be said.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of December 25, 2012.
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