The Lakers’ small problem at forward

(Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers had their depth and personnel put to the test on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, you can mark this one in red, as the Golden State Warriors took them down 121 to 114. It’s a glaring hole on their roster that the DeAndre Jordan bandage doesn’t seem to cover. They are in need of a forward that can bridge the defensive efforts of their starting lineup.

When was the last time the Lakers employed someone that played strictly small forward? Brandon Ingram is the first name in mind, but he turned to trade fodder. Ron Artest most notably anchored the position en route to a championship. Trevor Ariza preceded Ron-Ron just prior to his arrival.

Ariza is back in purple and gold but on the mend. Along with him is Talen Horton-Tucker. Arguably, these are the team’s true small forwards. They are the guys that the Lakers would like to employ as their designated “3&D” wings. Both guys will lose something close to 25 games or more this season and that spells bad news. They were both rumored to be in line to start alongside their star-studded trio of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook. ESPN’s Zach Lowe spoke about THT’s destiny:

“But he is by far the most important young player on an old team; the Lakers signaled as much by re-signing Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $30.8 million deal, effectively choosing him over Alex Caruso, and coaches discussed the possibility of starting Horton-Tucker this season, sources say.”

It begs the simple question: What the hell are the Lakers going to do here? They don’t have the size or depth right now. They did elect to bring in Avery Bradley, who is pesky, but that’s a tough ask for him to pester the Devin Bookers and Kevin Durants of the world.

The Lakers don’t have the luxury of slotting players up. They have a glut of combo guards that simply can match the measurements of the league’s average wing. Kent Bazemore is the only other backcourt player that can credibly take on some power wings.

Carmelo Anthony, for all his glory, is not the answer. He’s a hell of a weapon in getting up shots however is needed. Other than that, you’re mostly playing four on five. As mentioned, the absence of resistance is where most of the league’s elite occupy space. Here’s some footage from Mo Dakhil of The Athletic for example:

LeBron James gives an answer-ish. Effort and health are the two biggest questions for him. With Westbrook and Davis as offensive minds, it could leave him with some room to impact the game on both ends. As of their first game, he officially mans the small forward spot. He looked damn good last night (albeit mostly as a weakside helper than a man-to-man defender), but even the best need support.

The team will need him in these spurts. It’s a temporary solution until the buyout market shakes out. For now, we’ve seen intriguing names like Al-Farouq Aminu and Stanley Johnson hit the waivers. Maybe they consider these guys until their two primary guys (Ariza and THT) make a recovery. For now, the Lakers will do what they can until it’s truly winning time.



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