Metta World Peace's offensive production is in decline, but do the… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)
The so-called July moratorium ends today, allowing NBA teams on Wednesday to officially sign free agents and comment on transactions. For the Lakers, that means they can finally acknowledge Steve Nash's acquisition. But there's another important note that coincides with making such a move official.
That involves whether the Lakers will decide to waive a player using the amnesty clause. In Monopoly terms, it's almost a "get out of jail free" card. From July 11 to 17, teams that didn't exercise the provision last season can waive a player who meets certain contract criteria. Even though teams must still pay the respective player's salary, he no longer counts against the team's salary cap or luxury tax.
Should the Lakers exercise such a move, the most likely candidate is Metta World Peace, who's slated to make $15 million in the next two seasons. But should the Lakers do that? Consider the variables the Lakers have to weigh.
1. Why the Lakers should exercise the amnesty provision on World Peace. The Lakers, for a while, have tried trading World Peace. Too bad the other teams always say no. All teams are well aware of his unpredictable behavior and off-court distractions. They hear the fans at Staples Center gasp anytime World Peace shoots a three-pointer (he shot 29.6% last season from downtown). They notice that he's no longer as mobile defensively as he was in his prime.
To expect World Peace to elevate his game seems unrealistic. The Lakers are always on pins and needles as to whether he will arrive to training camp in shape. World Peace's standout games only come in dribs and drabs. And oftentimes, World Peace's shot selection and poor execution seriously undermines the Lakers.
Besides, the Lakers are pretty strapped financially and don't have many other means to cut costs. If the Lakers want to get closer to being under the salary cap or even have a better chance at signing more free agents, waiving World Peace could become necessary.
2. Why the Lakers should keep World Peace. Contrary to popular belief, he's not a scrub. World Peace went on a tear in April, averaging 14 points per game and looking livelier on defense. Even after serving a seven-game suspension for elbowing James Harden, the Lakers forward averaged 11 points through six games in the postseason. World Peace's defensive decline still proves relative. Synergy Sports Technology ranks him high in all man-to-man defensive situations, limiting opponents to below 40% shooting in all instances except when he defends off screens.
It would've been nice for the Lakers if such a presence came earlier. But the Lakers featured him less in the post for some reason. His poor conditioning simply reflected a nerve issue he had in his back. And World Peace couldn't get treated for that earlier because he didn't have access to the Lakers' training staff and facilities during the NBA lockout, and he was reluctant to seek independent treatment.
Simply put, a lot of World Peace's inconsistency last season proved circumstantial. That shouldn't be as much of an issue next season. Lakers Coach Mike Brown will have a better idea on how to feature him in the lineup. World Peace doesn't have any injuries. And toward the end of the season, World Peace seemed more focused.
Why waive World Peace when they don't have a better alternative to putting him in the lineup? They would be in dire need of a defensive-minded small forward, a commodity that could be hard to replace on the open market. Even if World Peace could still add some anxieties to the Lakers, his presence far outweighs the long-term void his departure would create.
Verdict: This is all circumstantial. If the Lakers sign a legitimate free-agent small forward, such as Grant Hill, they don't need to keep World Peace. Hill could be the starting small forward, while pending free agent Devin Ebanks could become the team's primary backup small forward. Outside of that scenario, the Lakers don't gain much out of shedding ties with World Peace.
Yes, the Lakers sometimes grow annoyed with his antics. But World Peace still provides a distinguishable skillset with his defense and toughness. It's critical that Brown, World Peace and his teammates work together constructively so they can get the most out of their unpredictable small forward.
You've read my take. Now what's yours? Vote in the poll below and explain your answer in the comments section.
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