Why L.A. Lakers Should Cut Ties with Metta World Peace After This Season

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIOctober 9, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 21:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Metta World Peace #15 during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 21, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Heading into his fourteenth NBA season, Lakers' forward Metta World Peace may be on his last legs in Los Angeles.

One of the best perimeter defenders of the last ten years, the mercurial World Peace displayed quite the repertoire of skills over his illustrious career. And he finally captured that elusive first championship ring while playing alongside Kobe Bryant.

Despite his successes, recent evidence suggests that World Peace's effectiveness has declined significantly over the last few seasons.

The St. John's product has become just a shell of the player who was the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.

World Peace has an early termination option after this season, giving him the option to stay under contract another year with the Lake Show.

Given his salary of over $7 million, it is unlikely that World Peace will find better pay elsewhere. Consequently, the onus will be on Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers' front office to find a new home for the artist formerly known as Ron Artest.

Here is why the Lakers should cut ties with Metta World Peace after this season.

Declining Productivity

Over the last couple of seasons, World Peace has seen his numbers dip dramatically.

Once the gritty heart of an underdog Houston Rockets team, World Peace has been forced to take on a reduced role alongside Bryant and Pau Gasol.

In the Lakers' 2010 championship season, World Peace was still productive on the perimeter, scoring 11.0 PPG, while knocking down 41.4 percent of his shots and 35.5 percent of his three-pointers.

But as the Lakers declined, so did World Peace.

Last season the forward put up just 7.7 PPG while shooting a career low 29.6 percent from downtown. 

Coach Mike Brown found less use for him, opting to start World Peace in only 45 of a possible 64 games. Prior to that, World Peace had started every game that he had played in purple and gold. With Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the fold, World Peace should expect even fewer touches as he becomes the team's fifth option.

His defense has slipped as well.

The beatdown that Kevin Durant put on World Peace and the Lakers in their second-round playoff series only reinforced his inability to keep up with rising NBA talent. In five games against the Lakers, the Thunder forward averaged 26.8 PPG on 51.6 percent shooting, routinely torching World Peace from all parts of the court. While Durant can make most defenses look bad, his dominance of World Peace spoke volumes to the Laker faithful.

Beyond his defense, World Peace's efficiency has been anything short of impressive lately. 

Last season he posted the worst PER of his career, at just 11.0. By comparison, his first-round competition Al Harrington of the Denver Nuggets had a PER of 15.39 last season.

It would be foolish to assume that World Peace could ever return to the All-Star form of his days as a Pacer, but the rapid decline in his game has turned some heads in Los Angeles. The trend does not appear to be changing, and his on-court deficiencies might lead to a premature exit from Staples Center soon.

Better Options

With the amount of skill on the loaded Lakers' roster, the front office could parlay World Peace's expiring contract into a more productive and efficient talent.

The master of the trade heist, Mitch Kupchak has already proven his front-office prowess by making blockbuster deals for Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard without giving up much. Looking to the summer of 2013, there are a host of younger free-agent forwards capable of stepping in at the 3 spot for the Lakers.

From Chase Budinger to Corey Brewer, there are plenty of young athletic wings with "glue guy" written all over them. The Lakers have more than enough firepower, and should just be on the lookout for the right blend of complementary pieces.

Then there are financial considerations. At $7 million a year, Metta World Peace is not worth the money. Ridding the team of World Peace's salary burden will only help make the Lakers younger and more successful in the long run.

Perhaps Kupchak could deal World Peace for a solid young "3-D" guy—a perimeter player capable of knocking down the open three while playing sound perimeter defense. A player akin to World Peace eight years ago.

While someone like the Spurs Kawhi Leonard or the Celtics Courtney Lee come to mind first, there is another group of younger guys who fit the bill, as well.

Team Complexion

Given the Lakers' summer success of acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the media has been all about the Lake Show's new band of super friends.

Conspicuously absent from the Lakers' Big Four is World Peace, who has largely fallen out of the limelight in Los Angeles.

Moving forward, it seems like the torch will eventually be passed from Bryant to Howard, assuming D12 commits long-term to the team next summer. If this does become Howard's team, then the changing of the guard could signal a change in roster complexion, as well.

At 38 years old, Nash playing beyond his current contract would be surprising. Bryant has already hinted that he may retire after another couple of seasons, and Gasol seems to always be in trade rumors.

The most expendable piece on the roster has to World Peace. As World Peace grows older, his value will continue to drop.

The small forward position really is the most glaring weakness on the Lakers' star-studded roster. Watching the Metta World Peace subplot should be revealing of the team's front-office agenda this season.

An upgrade at the wing certainly would make this team a whole lot scarier than it already is.


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