In 2009 and 2010 the Los Angeles Lakers ruled over the NBA by winning back-to-back championships. From 2011 to 2013, however, the Lakers hit a downward spiral, failing to address their most pressing needs and were thus forced to face the consequences.
In a summer of disarray, however, the Lakers have begun plugging away at their most glaring void yet: the absence of athleticism.
Thus far, the Lakers have signed the likes of Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson and Nick Young to help the team in the department of athleticism. Paired with Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake, the Lakers have effectively built a second unit perimeter that may actually provide depth for the first time since their previously alluded to title runs.
According to HoopsHype.com, the Lakers aren't done.
Free agent forward Gary Forbes is working out for the Los Angeles Lakers today, one source told HoopsHype. http://t.co/jD1a1drxJJ— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) August 13, 2013
Name value or not, chasing a player of Gary Forbes' make-up is a step in the right direction.
For those unfamiliar, Forbes is a 28-year-old shooting guard who stands at 6'7" and 200 pounds. He's played two years of NBA basketball, serving as a quality reserve for the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors in that time.
A slashing wing with respectable scoring instincts and an improved defensive game, Forbes is the type of two-way player who can provide valuable minutes each night.
The truth of the matter is, Forbes' quality of play isn't the focus in this instance. This is not to slight him in any manner, but he's not a star, nor is he a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, if we're to base our evaluation off of past performances.
What Forbes is, however, is a strong athlete with size—two traits the Lakers have lacked along their perimeter for too long.
The Western Conference is flooded with superstars, specifically at the perimeter positions. Players such as Kevin Durant, James Harden, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook are postseason mainstays who use either quickness, explosiveness or a combination of both to tear opposing defenses apart.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers contend in 2013-14?
This comes as expected for a team with the level of respect the Lakers have often generated. After all, L.A. did appear in three consecutive NBA Finals from 2008 to 2010, thus earning its reputation as the class of the West.
As the Lakers' athleticism has dwindled, however, their intimidation factor has faltered and their ability to compete has been damaged.
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Lakers' starting lineup consisted of a 39-year-old Steve Nash, 34-year-old Kobe Bryant, 33-year-old Metta World Peace and 33-year-old Pau Gasol. The only player under 30 was Dwight Howard, who plays center—a position in which athleticism is all but meaningless in the open court—and battled both back and shoulder injuries.
Even still, the Lakers ranked fourth in pace during the 2012-13 season, per John Hollinger of ESPN.
The numbers speak for themselves.
The Lakers' ranking in pace goes against everything the numbers say it should've been. Their starting lineup had an average age of 33.2, which was 6.8 years older than the next highest team in the top five, the Milwaukee Bucks at 26.4.
By targeting players like Forbes, the Lakers display the knowledge that Mike D'Antoni's system—or any system, for that matter—will not work if they fail to become younger and more athletic.
Not Just Forbes
As previously alluded to, the Lakers added quality athletes at all three perimeter positions with Farmar, Johnson and Young. Paired with Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, that makes for a stronger second unit perimeter than we'd seen in recent seasons.
With space remaining for an upgrade, the Lakers are using this time to examine their options.
Names commonly referenced in L.A. include Forbes, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Marcus Landry and Shawne Williams. All have past NBA experience and each would add a form of raw athleticism to the Lakers' depth chart.
Regardless of who L.A. chooses, they're in a good position.
The Lakers have already made additions to their second unit that have come roughly three seasons too late. Fortunately, the Lakers remain in possession of superstar talent and have the opportunity to make the most of the athletes added in D'Antoni's system.
The fact that the Lakers are targeting Forbes simply confirms one critical notion—the Lakers are aware of their needs and willing to do something about it.