Metta World Peace has been a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for the entirety of his career. While Ron Artest was a terror across the league as a part of the Indiana Pacers, the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets, this new incarnation of World Peace is a much different player.
With World Peace's opt-out date quickly approaching, it is obvious in retrospect that World Peace's tenure with the Lakers has been solid, but not spectacular.
As basically a positional replacement for a departing Trevor Ariza, World Peace came in and saw to it that Kobe Bryant and the Lakers repeated as NBA champions before the Lakers suffered a slow and steady decline down the ranks of the NBA elite.
While he can still be considered the premier perimeter defender on the Lakers outside of Bryant, his offensive contributions have been inconsistent and he is no longer the scoring threat he used to be.
With the Lakers' future at a crossroads, it is unclear whether World Peace would be more of a benefit as a small forward for this team or as a source of cap relief.
There are definitely some pros and cons for both routes when it comes to World Peace opting out of his contract.
There is no denying the fact that the Lakers were one of the worst teams at protecting the paint from dribble penetration.
With Kobe Bryant saving himself for the offensive end during his reinvigorated season, an injury prone and aging Steve Nash, Chris Duhon and a conglomerate of young and inexperienced guards, it was up to Metta World Peace to try and maintain some semblance of protection from the perimeter.
The Lakers allowed 44.1 points per game in the paint, which was 26th in the league.
While some of this can be attributed to actual interior scoring via the post, the majority of this is a result of dribble penetration and hand-offs that simply couldn't be stopped.
The Lakers also allowed 22.2 points per game from three-point range. This can be attributed to the fact that they couldn't prevent drive-and-kicks and didn't have the speed on the perimeter to close out on shooters.
Without Metta World Peace, these numbers can only continue to trend downwards.
While the Lakers are looking forward to a massive overhaul following next season, there is no doubt that without World Peace, they'll have a very difficult time treading water.
At the moment, the Los Angeles Lakers currently sit at roughly $78 million in salaries for next season.
While they would still be over the cap with or without Metta World Peace, opting out of his contract would be a slight relief on the amount of luxury tax the Lakers would have to pay.
However, there won't be any long term effects on the Lakers' salary relief, given the fact that World Peace's contract ends after next season anyways.
Basically, the Lakers would exchange a serviceable defender for a little bit of cap relief.
This would make the most sense for the Lakers if they aren't able to re-sign Howard. If they aren't able to retain the big man's services, next season is basically a wash for them. Saving as much cap space as possible, even in the immediate future, would be their biggest priority.
Dwight Howard remains a wild card. Assuming Howard gets back to 100 percent and re-signs with the Lakers, he is talented and physically dominant enough to shore up any weaknesses in the front line on the defensive end.
However, the fact that Howard remains a big anomaly means that the Lakers need to proceed with the assumption that they may not have Howard's services next season.
This means that if Metta World Peace opts out, the Lakers will lose size and toughness in their front court.
With Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark not under contract for next season, the glaring hole in the front court will be made even more pronounced without World Peace.
If the Lakers don't re-sign Howard, consider their season completely tanked if World Peace does not re-sign. While this may be the only route the Lakers can take without Howard, Kobe Bryant will not be happy.
And, as history has shown, an unhappy Bryant can lead to a lot of drama.
Although Jodie Meeks is a shooting guard, Meeks will still definitely get more playing time if Metta World Peace opts out of his contract.
Meeks is considered a good defender and a shooter. However, he was given very limited minutes last season and was inconsistent with his shot.
World Peace opting out may force the Los Angeles Lakers to play Kobe Bryant at the small forward position a little more, allowing Meeks to see more time at the shooting guard position.
While he definitely has to put in some work in the offseason to diversify his game and add more moves into his arsenal, more playing time can only benefit the development of such a young player.
Although this may not be ideal for the Lakers to play winning basketball, the progression and development of their young players is essential in the rebuilding process.
Metta World Peace was atrocious in the playoffs. He shot 25.0 percent from the field and was a virtual non-factor on the offensive end.
However, in the regular season, World Peace was a decent outside threat and shot 34.2 percent from three-point range.
While he is no Ray Allen, World Peace is still a fearless shooter who never lets his misses dictate his confidence on the next shot he takes.
Losing that spacing will make it hard for Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni to try and construct a system that would fit both D'Antoni's vision and the limited talent on the team.
Although the Lakers will definitely be in the market for cheap and serviceable shooters, losing one with the versatile skills that Metta World Peace brings to the table will be an absolute detriment.