There are numerous reasons the new and improved Los Angeles Lakers could fail to qualify for the 2013 NBA Finals, but contrary to popular opinion poor perimeter defense is not one of them.
It's extremely difficult to find room for criticism in a roster that includes the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, but if you were to compile a list, perimeter defense would fall behind after chemistry, Howard's back and the threat of injuries.
However, poor chemistry, Howard's injury and the threat of more due to age are legitimate concerns on the road to a title, but the lack of perimeter defense isn't.
When the Lakers perimeter defense is mentioned it's usually in reference to Nash who has never even had the benefit of being called an average defender, and Bryant whose recurring first team All NBA defense selections are perceived to be based on his reputation.
Nash has never held much interest for the defensive end of the floor, but it's not like his lack of attention in that category has prevented him from being dominant at his position anyway.
Nash's ability to orchestrate an offense and increase the productivity of his teammates has always over-shadowed his struggles on the defensive end of the court.
Nash's best defense may be pushing the ball up the court after an oponent's made basket, but remember he managed to push mostly mediocre Phoenix teams consistently to the brinks of the postseason and beyond.
And Nash has never had the benefit of playing alongside talents like Howard, Gasol and Bryant.
Kobe's critics like to say that his multiple first team defense awards are undeserved, but in doing so, they are suggesting that they are better judges of NBA defense than the head coaches that pick the teams.
That one award is one of the few end-of-season NBA awards that actually are derived from people who are part of the game.
Kobe may not be as good defensively as the NBA's head coaches think, but he can still be a superior defender in spurts, and with Howard in the post, that may be all the Lakers need.
Bryant may not be the same defender that he was 10 years ago, but he's still athletic and competent enough to play strong defense, and while Nash may be abused by the west's elite point guards, the river flows both ways.
Nash may struggle to stay in front of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, but all of those players will find Nash a bit challenging to defend as well.
And when Nash does penetrate the lane, as his career suggests he eventually will, he arguably has the best collection of finishers in the game at his disposal.
If Howard is healthy, his presence will mute Nash's poor defense in the same manner it did in Orlando, and you can certainly expect Bryant to be a little more energetic and motivated with Howard watching his back on the defensive end.
None of this means the Lakers will not face hurdles defensively on the perimeter because it definitely could be a concern when it comes to reaching the NBA Finals. But if the Lakers make it that far, Nash and Bryant's offense will have more to do with determining that fate.