Metta World Peace: A Brand New Player in 2012

You may have noticed a slew of new players on the Lakers roster this season; eight to be exact. However, you may have also noticed another new player: Metta World Peace.

If you’ve watched any number of Lakers games this season, you’ve noticed a new and improved Metta World Peace.

Over the summer, it was well documented that World Peace got himself into much better shape than prior to the 2011-2012 season, in which he was admittedly hampered by a back injury and was overweight because he could not get into proper condition. It was also reported that Metta had worked on his all around game as well–namely his three-point shot.

We saw glimpses of a different World Peace towards the end of last season, right before he was suspended for seven games after elbowing James Harden in the head.

This season, World Peace is averaging 14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Most importantly is the fact that his field goal percentage (43.6 percent) and three-point percentage (39.1 percent) are significantly up from last season’s averages of 39.4 percent and 29.6 percent, respectively. This is hugely important because in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, World Peace is asked to shoot threes at a high rate, and he has, at 6.2 per game.

Another noticeable uptick has been World Peace’s free throw percentage, which is at a career high 80.0 percent (besides the 92.2 percent he shot in just seven games with Indiana during the 2003-2004 season in which he was suspended for the remainder of the season due to the brawl in Detroit).

Metta’s offensive rating is currently at 113, which is his highest rating since the 2004-2005 season, according to basketball-reference.com. Additionally, his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is up to 14.5 this season compared with just 11.0 last season, according to 82games.com.

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Combined with his reduced weight and increased conditioning, World Peace simply looks like a completely different player this season, and is having by far his most productive season as a Laker. So much in fact, that World Peace is averaging the third most points on the team. I don’t think that was even imaginable last season.

World Peace is hitting outside shots, cutting to the basket, posting up, and even driving to the basket–and doing so efficiently. Most teams usually leave World Peace alone and focus on the other players, and have done so for a couple years now. Now, with a bolstered lineup, he’s improved his game, making those teams pay for leaving him alone. He’s recognizing the advantages, and he’s attacking.

The only possible negative is that his opponent’s PER has increased from 11.8 from last season to 12.5 this season. However, with World Peace’s new-found conditioning and athleticism, I see his defense picking up throughout the season and especially in big games where his defense is going to be needed.

The good news is that he looks conditioned enough to contribute on both ends of the floor for the entire game.

World Peace has been the most consistent player for the Lakers besides Kobe Bryant, which is also something that would also not have been imaginable last season.

With the All-Star starting lineup Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss put together over the summer, World Peace has made sure that he won’t be the “weakest link,” so to speak. His level of play may not garner him an All-Star nod, but for the Lakers, he’s definitely producing far better than management could have expected this season.

Teams often get better through the draft, through trades, or through free agency. Rarely do they get better due to the improvement of a veteran player. But for the Lakers, this is exactly what has happened. They may have made a host of moves in the off-season, but they also managed to acquire a “new” player in this season’s version of Metta World Peace.

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