Metta: No Longer the Problem, but the Answer.

Let’s face it. The Lakers are lost. Dwight is hurt, Pau is hurt, Kobe and Nash have been getting killed by more youthful legs on the defensive end of the court, and the bench has been more inconsistent than Jeff Green’s heart. If you ask any Lakers fan for a bright spot on this season they’ll either say Kobe, because they’re ignorant and stereotypical Laker fans that still think that Kobe Bryant is a deity on Earth, or they’ll tell you about the crazy guy who once thanked his psychiatrist after winning the NBA championship. That’s right. Metta World Peace.

The last two years have been the worst of Metta’s career. He’s averaged single-digit points per game, a far cry from the numbers that he put up as members of the Pacers or Kings. Last season he shot 30% from mid range and 30% from three-point range. That kind of inefficiency makes followers of the team yelp and cringe as it either clanks off of the back rim or air-balls. This season’s seen vast improvements to those numbers. He’s up to 47% and 37% shooting mid-range and threes. A statistical analysis of Metta’s point totals is indicative of the improvement in his offensive game.

  • 2011-2012: PPG: 7.7, St. Dev.: 5.9, Min: 0, Q1: 3, Median: 7, Q3: 10.5, Max: 26.
  • 2012-2013: PPG: 13.8. St. Dev.: 5.7, Min: 2, Q1: 10, Median: 13, Q3: 18, Max: 24.

A game that would have placed at the 75th percentile for Metta last year would only be good enough to muster about a 25th percentile performance. Another noteworthy observation from this analysis is that the standard deviation hardly changed at all. Generally when an older player sees his role in the offense increase, he becomes less reliable. They tend to play more poorly on the second half of a back-to-back as they cannot recover as quickly as they could when they were younger. Take 15-point games for instance. He had 8 of them last year, in 64 games played. That’s 12.5% of the time. This season he has scored at least 15 points 17 times, in 35 games played, 48.6% of the time. His productivity and consistency is valuable to the Lakers in a year marred by drama, injuries, and coaching changes. If you exclude the games this week where Gasol and Howard were injured, the Lakers are 9-1 when Metta scores at least 17 points and 6-17 when he doesn’t. Significant.

The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year has been making an impact on that end of the floor too. Again comparing to last year, he has 9 games already this season with at least 3 steals after having only 6 all of last season. His energy level is still Chip Kelly-esque. That’s a huge boost. For the few stints the Lakers have played outstanding defense this year, it normally starts by World Peace making a gritty hustle play that gets the crowd on their feet to motivate the team to play good basketball. Just in the last two weeks, he’s held Nicolas Batum to 10 points, Danilo Gallinari to 6-20 shooting, and Jason Richardson to 9 points on 11 shots. The Lakers defensive efficiency increases twofold when Metta’s on the floor. You get the point, though. He’s no slouch on D.

One of the biggest changes to Metta’s game this year that he hasn’t been involved in too much in the past is his new-found role at the power forward position. In Mike D’Antoni’s offense it’s a perfect fit if he can handle it (think: Marion). According to 82games.com, Metta is forcing his counterpart into 3.8 turnovers per 48 minutes, which even more spectacular when you consider that power forwards generally commit the fewest turnovers out of any position (don’t handle ball as much as guards and aren’t as clumsy as centers). Metta’s immense strength and lightning-quick hands make him a nightmare for an offensive player in the post against him. At this point, with the direction the league is going, it seems like power forward is the best fit for Metta. The Lakers see a staggering increase in production when he’s there. Consider these metrics:

  • Metta World Peace off the floor: ORtg = 99.9. DRtg = 112.1
  • Metta World Peace at SF: ORtg = 104.2. DRtg = 97.9
  • Metta World Peace at PF: ORtg = 111.6. DRtg = 94.8

World Peace’s time at the power forward position doesn’t really fall victim to small sample-size too much. He’s played there 219 minutes this season, about 13% of the Lakers total minutes. Metta’s presence on the floor has been as important as anyone’s. The energy and the recently rediscovered offensive efficiency is what this old and slow team needs.

Skyler Gilbert is a contributor for Hoop City Blog. He’d like to thank 82games.com, hoopdata.com, and basketball-reference.com for helping him compile the statistics used in the article. You can follow him at @skylerjgilbert. Also, it’s weird for him to be referring to himself in the 3rd person so he’s going to conclude this article.

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About Skyler Gilbert
Follow me on Twitter @skylerjgilbert

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