Entering the 2012-13 NBA regular season, one could pick Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol for the Los Angeles Lakers' most valuable player. Thirty-five games in, however, it is the most unlikely candidate who has earned that moniker.
Metta World Peace is proving to be the real Lakers MVP in 2012-13.
The Lakers have two former league MVP award winners in Bryant and Nash. Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and Gasol is a three-time All-NBA member.
Even 2004 Sixth Man of the Year Antawn Jamison received praise as an X-Factor.
As for MWP, he was considered to be the one glaring weakness in the L.A. starting lineup. Au contraire.
Thus far in 2012-13, World Peace has been the one mark of consistency within the Lakers' rotation. Even as his production wavers, there is one area of his game that has not been questioned.
His effort. That and his ability to play the game as only MWP knows how..
There's really nobody else in the league that plays basketball quite like Metta World Peace. He's one of a kind.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 10, 2013
With as many egos as the Lakers possess, there will be times in which team morale takes a dip. With the Lakers collapsing to 15-20, the entire season has been classified as one of those moments.
Fortunately, MWP has been there to provide a consistent display of energy, effort and tenacity.
Even as the Lakers' postseason dreams begin to slip away, World Peace has displayed an undeniable will to win. Although his efforts have come up short, the Lakers are on the brink of victory due to MWP's efforts.
Just check the numbers.
Thus far in 2012-13, the Los Angeles Lakers are allowing an average of 98.0 points per 48 minutes with Metta World Peace on the floor. That number may not be too impressive, but the Lakers are letting up 101.7 per game.
Opponents are scoring 109.5 points per 48 when MWP is on the bench. That's not a misprint.
As for his individual numbers, World Peace is presently averaging 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Those are his best numbers as a Lakers.
In fact, they're MWP's best numbers since 2008.
World Peace may not be the athlete he was at a younger state, but he's in the best shape of his Lakers career. He's also displayed an unparalleled prowess for bumping and checking opponents along the perimeter.
This has enabled the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year to maintain position on more athletic forwards. In turn, he's been the one player the Lakers can trust on defense.
A testament to his undying work ethic.
Key to the Offense
Believe it or not, Metta World Peace is the player who makes the Los Angeles Lakers' elite offense flourish.
Thus far in 2012-13, the Lakers are averaging 105.3 points per 48 minutes with MWP on the floor. That number drops to 96.4 when he's resting.
Want more proof?
For the season, the Lakers are posting a team slash line of .471/.364/.689 with MWP on the floor. When he is not, their numbers are .410/.339/.704.
The most notable difference is a positive 6.1 field-goal percentage point increase with World Peace on the hardwood.
Individually, World Peace is averaging 13.8 points with a slash line of .428/.369/.729.
Each of those numbers are the best of his four-year tenure with the Lakers.
As productive as he may be, the key to Metta World Peace's value is his unquestioned effort.
While the Lakers have displayed a lackadaisical approach to games under Mike D'Antoni, MWP has been pushing himself to every extreme. Whether offensively or defensively, World Peace is always looking to make a play.
More times than not, he's been successful.
This has led to the Lakers posting a per 48 +/- of positive-7.3 with MWP on the floor and a negative-13.1 without. That's a difference of 20.4 points per 48 minutes.
And the numbers don't stop there.
L.A. is presently posting a Net Rating of positive-8.5 with World Peace on the court. That number dips all the way down to negative-12.0 when he's sitting on the bench.
A difference of 20.5 points per 100 possessions.
People can reference the big names if they'd please, but the numbers never lie. In this instance, it is clear what those numbers are telling us.
MWP is the MVP of the Los Angeles Lakers. The question is, can he lead them to a turnaround for the ages?