If the New York Knicks fancy themselves as contenders in an increasingly loaded Eastern Conference, they should be falling all over themselves to secure the services of the recently amnestied Metta World Peace.
According to Howard Beck of The New York Times, the Knicks and MWP, a New York native, share a mutual interest in one another.
World Peace's future is hazy. He's mentioned everything from pursuing an arena football career to hockey to playing in China as possible future career options. But if there's even a slim chance that the Knicks could convince the veteran forward to continue his playing career in the Big Apple, they had better be putting on the full-court press.
A lot left in the tank
Don't let the Los Angeles Lakers' unceremonious abandonment color your perception of World Peace's current value. L.A. merely wanted to avoid the crushing luxury tax to whatever extent it could, and MWP was a casualty of that effort.
This guy can still play.
In fact, World Peace was excellent in his final season with the Lakers. He put up 12.4 points, five rebounds and 1.6 steals per game last year, all of which were the best totals of any of his four seasons in Los Angeles. Plus his PER of 12.55 was higher than it had been since the 2008-09 season, per ESPN.
And with World Peace, it's not really about the superficial numbers; his defense and his overall effect on his team are far better indicators of his worth.
According to 82games.com, MWP held opposing small forwards to a PER of 15.00 last season, which was exactly league-average. But he limited power forwards to a PER of 13.7, which shows both his toughness and his versatility.
Overall, the Lakers' offensive rating improved 3.9 points per 100 possessions when World Peace was on the floor, while their defensive rating was 3.8 points per 100 possessions better. Altogether, MWP improved the team by a whopping net rating of plus-7.7 points per 100 possessions.
A new and different weapon
If the numbers don't do it for you, perhaps a more philosophical angle will help.
As currently composed, the Knicks simply don't have a top-end wing defender they can throw at LeBron James, Paul George or, if the NBA Finals become more than a pipe dream, Kevin Durant. Carmelo Anthony actually rated as an excellent individual defender last season, but asking him to shoulder such a massive scoring load while also checking the league's best wings is probably a bit much.
So, if New York wants to maximize its chances of getting past some of the league's elite, they need an attack dog to sic on said teams' most dangerous players. And that's where World Peace comes in.
Plus, MWP's overall effect on the Knicks' makeup can't be discounted. He's as gritty and competitive a defender as there is, so he'll provide a nice contrast to New York's collection of one-dimensional, low-efficiency scorers.
The Knicks made an expensive mistake by adding Andrea Bargnani to a team already full of low-percentage offensive players; they can help mitigate that by snatching up the defensive-minded Metta World Peace on the cheap.
Nothing to lose
New York can only pay MWP a portion of their taxpayer mid-level exception, which ESPN's Chris Broussard pegs at about $1.7 million. The money might not matter to World Peace, though, as he's still going to collect more than $7 million from the Lakers during the year.
The threat of distractions will always be there, as World Peace is a safe bet to make appearances on local news, say something bizarre in a postgame press conference or fly off the handle during a game. But he's mellowed over the years and is now something of a media darling.
And in New York, even bad press is good press. So, there's really nothing to lose here.
All in all, the Knicks need what MWP provides; the team would get a big toughness injection, a cool homecoming storyline and a consistently entertaining headline-generator.
What's not to like about that?