Metta World Peace's Defense Would Be Perfect for Win-Now New York Knicks
There's an old saying in basketball circles that has stood the test of time: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.
Recently amnestied small forward Metta World Peace cleared the waiver process and is officially a free agent.
He's also one of the better on-ball defenders in the NBA, and would bring a valuable defensive intensity to what will be his sixth NBA franchise next season.
The New York Knicks have been mentioned as the leading candidate to sign the man formerly known as Ron Artest, and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday evening that the Knicks were the clear front-runner for his services.
World Peace himself fueled rumors that the Knicks are his No. 1 choice with this post on Twitter, although the post was before the Los Angeles Lakers officially made him their amnesty choice:
I love Hiking!!! Come join me!!! pic.twitter.com/iWDep5TMw2— Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace) July 10, 2013
Then again, blue and orange might just be his favorite colors. With World Peace, you really never know.
Other options (Los Angeles Clippers, China) are on the table, but from a depth and philosophy standpoint, the Knicks are a perfect fit for his style of basketball. Since he's going to get his entire $7.7 million salary from the Lakers, World Peace also shouldn't require a hefty contract.
According to Wojnarowski's report, that contract would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.6 million.
Moke Hamilton of SheridanHoops.com is both surprised that World Peace cleared waivers and a clear advocate that the Knicks do what it takes to sign him as a free agent:
It's true, I did not think Metta World Peace would clear amnesty waivers. But now that he has, #Knicks are pursuing, full speed. Good call.— Moke Hamilton (@MokeHamilton) July 15, 2013
While the small forward spot is filled—and filled quite well, I might add—World Peace can still be a valuable contributor on a contending team.
The 33-year-old is a strong defender and understands what it takes to win an NBA championship—two things the Knicks are going to need to climb the mountain next year.
New York has no shortage of offense. From Carmelo Anthony to J.R. Smith, the Knicks are going to put points on the board during the 2013-14 NBA season. A healthy Amar'e Stoudemire might just make the Knicks one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league.
Andrea Bargnani will also bring offense to the Big Apple after being acquired in an offseason trade that sent Marcus Camby and Steve Novak to Toronto. The Knicks are going to be fun to watch with the ball, but where is the defensive spark going to come from?
The short answer is Tyson Chandler.
The 2011-12 NBA Defensive Player of the Year is also the only member of New York's current roster to win an NBA championship (with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011). He'll be expected to be the defensive captain and provide veteran leadership in his 13th NBA season.
Jason Kidd provided some of that leadership last year, but his retirement leaves Chandler as the leader of the roster with a group of others (Anthony, Smith, Stoudemire) all planning on picking up the slack together in that department.
But Chandler played in only 66 games during the 2012-13 regular season, missing time due to injury.
When you factor in injury concerns to Stoudemire, the issue of frontcourt depth and the fact that Bargnani is about as useful on defense as a cardboard cutout, expecting Chandler to anchor a defense by himself might be a stretch of the imagination.
Iman Shumpert is a candidate to fill the on-ball defense role for the Knicks, and when dialed in, Anthony isn't a bad defender himself. In the concept of team defense, though, the Knicks are behind the eight ball when it comes to cohesiveness as a unit.
He also understands defensive rotations and isn't afraid to mix it up with anyone; that toughness and hustle spreads like wildfire when a buy-in from the rest of the roster occurs.
Paul George had a strong showing against the Knicks as the Indiana Pacers eliminated New York from playoff contention, but having another defender like World Peace to play in a "small" lineup would help Mike Woodson's chances of staying off the hot seat in the Big Apple.
Of course, there are always concerns when you bring a player like World Peace on board.
He's as eccentric as they come, and there's no guarantee his heart is even in another NBA season. On record as saying he wants to be "adventurous" in the wake of his amnesty (per Wojnarowski), World Peace has even hinted he might want to play in China next season.
Check out his Twitter handle (@MettaWorldPeace) for confirmation.
World Peace also has no problem chucking up shots, something that would be frustrating to one of the NBA's heaviest isolation teams. Anthony and Smith both need the ball to be effective, and watching World Peace shoot 5.5 threes per game (his 2012-13 average in L.A.) might not fly in the locker room.
But in the right lineup, World Peace provides value. Former Knick small forward Chris Copeland signed with Indiana over New York, and Novak's shooting will also be missed.
With World Peace playing as a primary backup to Anthony and a complementary piece in a smaller lineup, he can space the floor for the Knicks without sacrificing the defense that Novak lacked in Woodson's 2012-13 lineups.
He averaged over 12 points and five rebounds per game for the injury-ravaged Lakers last year, and despite making fans cringe each time he chucked up an ill-advised three-pointer, L.A. fans know that a motivated World Peace can affect the outcome of a game in a positive way.
What grade would you give to the Knicks on a potential World Peace signing?
The Knicks are clearly in win-now mode. By trading for Bargnani and bringing back most of the core from last year's team, it's clear management expects the Knicks to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference next year.
But it's the little details that have plagued the Knicks since Anthony arrived that helped make them a contender again. That shortcoming is clear on defense, where the Knicks have been better than advertised but are still not consistent enough to run with the elite teams in the NBA.
At 33, World Peace isn't a long-term fit. But the Knicks don't have a long-term roster and are chasing a championship for the good people of Madison Square Garden right now. Adding a former champion to the mix is exactly the kind of move that needs to be made.
The mutual interest, low salary-cap hit and a desire to contend in the East make this all pretty simple. The Knicks have the inside track on picking up World Peace, and on paper he looks like a great fit to pair with the team's current collection of championship-chasers.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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