Metta World Peace will return from his seven-game suspension on Saturday to help the L.A. Lakers in their quest to survive the first round against the Denver Nuggets. Coach Mike Brown has said that MWP will start in place of Matt Barnes, and it's likely that Devin Ebanks will be pushed deeper into the rotation.
Barnes has been wildly ineffective on offense throughout the series, averaging just 5 points and 4 rebounds per game in 22 minutes. He's shot 13-48 (27 percent) from the floor and 3-24 (12.5 percent) from long-range, just awful numbers at any sample size. Ebanks has been a bit better offensively (similar scoring and better shooting in five fewer minutes per game), but clearly isn't someone the Lakers rely on to help the offense consistently.
But Barnes has done a great job defensively. Danilo Gallinari is shooting just 33-85 (39 percent) from the floor and 3-20 (15 percent) on three-pointers; Gallo's offense has been saved by some decent foul-drawing. According to NBA.com, Gallinari is shooting just 32 percent in this series when Barnes is on the court, and 43 percent when Barnes sits. Most notably, Gallo is 0-8 on threes with Barnes in the game.
In this sense, MWP's return is a double-edged sword: Barnes has been effective in controlling Gallinari, a vital piece of Denver's offense. Now Barnes will be on Gallinari far less. But MWP's primary offering is defense -- now, in theory, both players guarding Gallo will be strong defenders. But if MWP is bringing defense on par with that of Barnes, where's the upgrade? How is MWP actually going to help the Lakers get over the hump? (This has somehow become a triple-edged sword.)
MWP defended Gallo well over 70 minutes in the regular season, holding him to 35 percent shooting. But Denver has this series tied with Gallinari largely being bottled up. In short: if the primary benefit of getting MWP back for Game 7 is to help slow down the Nuggets' offense, and the player MWP will be most responsible for has already been handcuffed by the man MWP is replacing in the starting five, is there even a true benefit to MWP's return?
If you think MWP is going to help the Lakers' offense, keep in mind that he was a substantially worse three-point shooter than Barnes over the course of the season, and for the last two seasons has held a scoring efficiency that would Smush Parker look like Steve Nash.