An unexpected Woj bomb hit Lakerland Monday night. Metta World Piece, proverbial friend of the Pandas, may be reuniting with the Purple and Gold next season. Discussions between the Lakers and World Peace remain informal and preliminary. However, if the team does bring back the mercurial member of its 2010 championship squad, it's worth considering just how he would fit within the roster at large.
Bringing back Metta makes sense at a basic level. The Lakers are short on legitimate small forwards outside of newly drafted rookie Anthony Brown. Kobe Bryant and Nick Young are currently projected to spend large amounts of time at the three, but the team could use an extra body to round out that position's depth. Up to this point it has been my hope that Jonathan Holmes and Anthony Brown, when not in the D-league, would function in this role due to their youth and upside.
In addition, Metta could spend time as a small ball power forward. Ron is strong enough to handle the responsibilities of a power forward but quick enough to keep up with stretch fours on defense. He's a career 34.1 percent three-point shooter and has the ability to stretch the floor on offense. As the league trends toward more pace and space lineups, Ron could serve a somewhat-useful role within that mold.
Bringing Metta back on a non-guaranteed one-year deal could significantly increase competition at training camp, His presence could also provide some "toughness" tutelage for some of the younger players like Julius Randle. There isn't anything necessarily wrong with that, but the front office supposedly already made free agent acquisitions to serve this need.
World Peace has worked out with Randle at the Lakers practice facility, noting how strong the returning rookie was. However, Brandon Bass was theoretically already brought in to do a lot of this type of work. Bass was positioned as a reasonable level of competition for minutes at power forward while helping mentor the second-year prospect.
The real consequence of World Peace's added presence would simply be an additional level of competition for playing time throughout the roster.
Too many mouths to feed
For whatever merits bringing World Peace back might serve in a general sense, the potential negatives far outweigh them. The Lakers already have a surplus of power forwards vying for time. While I don't mind the Brandon Bass signing, I was already wary of it potentially cutting into Randle's playing time or supplanting him from the starting lineup altogether. Bringing in World Peace as a potential stretch four would further cut into Julius' minutes.
Even if World Peace were brought in to function exclusively as a small forward, it would still have adverse effects. Metta could potentially spell Kobe at the three and shift him back down to his natural shooting guard position. However, this would bite into D'Angelo Russell's playing time and cost him much needed minutes during his rookie campaign, and would also trickle into Jordan Clarkson's minutes. World Peace would probably not spend all that much time on the floor if he were to be signed and make the roster. However, there are simply too many mouths to feed already at the positions he is best posited for.
This season's chief goal isn't a deep playoffs run or to make the playoffs at all, frankly. The franchise desperately needs to develop the team's new young core of Randle, Clarkson, and Russell. That means dedicating playing time to the core and allowing them to grow while making mistakes together.
I simply don't trust Byron Scott to allow that process to occur if he has a Ronnie Price-type asset available to him, in the form of Metta World Peace, to provide veteran minutes. There were far too many games last season when Scott elected to play veterans for elongated stretches at the cost of minutes for younger players.
World Peace is 35 years old and nowhere near his former Defensive Player of the Year level. His durability is questionable at best and he played in only 29 games during his last NBA season, despite the proper shape he appeared to be in during this summer's Nike Drew League exhibition games in Los Angeles.
It simply doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to bring Metta back at a time when developing the team's core is by far the biggest priority of the season. Metta will always be a fan favorite, but here's hoping the front office passes on World Peace this season.