How Metta World’s Return Will Impact Western Conference Playoff Picture

Metta World Peace will return from his seven game suspension for a crucial Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs.

Although he's not the player he was earlier in his career, World Peace still has serious value to the Los Angeles Lakers at both ends of the floor. With an ability to hit shots from the perimeter and provide a huge boost of defensive energy, the Lakers will welcome his help at small forward—a position the team has gotten nothing from during the postseason.

Following a putrid start to the season from behind the three-point line (23.9 percent before the All-Star break), World Peace was much more effective as the season wore on and shot 33.3 percent from distance over the final 30 regular season games.

While that's still not exactly an efficiency level to write home about, World Peace can help space the floor—an area where the Lakers have had a ton of problems to date. If Los Angeles is going to challenge teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs to represent the conference in the NBA Finals, World Peace is going to have to be a huge factor.

But it's not just about statistics with World Peace. It's about the level of energy, ferocity and fortitude he plays with every night. We've seen that get the best of him at times, but that's exactly the type of personality that could really help bring together a rather listless-looking team.

Many Lakers fans wanted to get rid of World Peace at the start of the season, but now he's critical to Los Angeles living up to the hype as a championship contender. The stage is set for a Ron Artest revival.

A major part of the reason that the Lakers signed World Peace in the summer of 2009 was for his defense. The team understood that the defensive fortitude at the small forward position would be key in the team having a chance to win a title on a yearly basis.

Despite World Peace's def...

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