Gary Forbes Thriving in Increased Role with Toronto Raptors

Sean BafaroContributor IIApril 2, 2012

Gary Forbes has thrived in his increased role with the Toronto Raptors
Gary Forbes has thrived in his increased role with the Toronto RaptorsJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Gary Forbes signed with the Toronto Raptors this summer thinking that he would get a chance to showcase his talent on a rebuilding team. After a strong showing for Panama in the summer's FIBA Americas, including a 39-point outburst against Canada, Forbes was ready to carry that momentum into the NBA.

Things didn't exactly go according to plan for the former Denver Nugget, as Forbes found himself buried on the bench behind guards Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa.

There simply wasn't any room in the rotation for Forbes to be able to get into any sort of rhythm on the floor. Even when he did get time, he found himself being used out of position as a third point guard and not at his natural shooting guard.

However, things would look up for Forbes.

The Raptors traded Leandro Barbosa to the Indiana Pacers at the trade deadline, which opened up that backup shooting guard and offensive spark-plug off the bench role. Shortly after the deadline, Bayless would then go down with a season ending injury, which gave Forbes even more of an opportunity.

Forbes has taken the opportunity and ran with it by playing the best ball of his career thus far.

In 10 games since the trade deadline, Forbes is averaging 11.9 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game, while having a very efficient shooting percentage of 58.4 percent.

During this stretch, Forbes has established new career highs in both points (21) and rebounds (13). He has also had two double-doubles, the first two of his career, and had a four game stretch of double digit scoring games, which is the longest consecutive streak of his career.

The increased role has made Forbes a more controlled player on the floor. Earlier in the season he would play way too aggressively trying to prove his value as a player. With his minutes being so sporadic, Forbes would try and force the issue whenever given a chance. Ultimately, this hurt him more than helped as it resulted in bad shot selection, too many turnovers and poor decision making overall.

Now that he knows when and where his minutes are going to come, he has settled down on the court. No longer is he forcing shots or playing out of control.

Instead, he is taking smart shots, playing within the flow of the offense and doing the little things, such as crashing the offensive glass and helping out the bigs on the defensive glass, that are starting to endear him to Dwane Casey and the rest of the Raptors' coaching staff.

So what does the future hold for Forbes?

The Raptors have 13 games left, which gives Forbes ample time to prove that this current stretch of solid play is not a fluke and is something that, given the chance, can allow him to provide on a consistent basis.

He is signed through the 2012-2013 season, which means he will likely be back with the team next year. Should he finish the season strong, one would expect him to be back in a similar role next season.

If he struggles, he may find himself as bench warmer next season, and would only used in emergency situations or blowouts.

His future is far from certain, but if stretch has shown anything it is this: given the minutes and opportunity, Forbes has shown that he can play at this level.

The only question now is whether he can consistently play at this level, which is a question both Forbes and the Raptors are going to find the answer to as the season winds down.