Assessing how much Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter would benefit from playing with the Lakers
Lakers rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter passed the first test, convincing the team front office during summer league that they were worth more than a 43rd and 58th overall pick. But as Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak reminded reporters a few weeks ago, you have to take it for what it's worth.
"I think they played better than what their draft position indicated," Kupchak said of Ebanks' and Caracter's play in summer league. Ebanks averaged 15 points and 3.6 rebounds, while Caracter posted three double-doubles in his first three games and averaged 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. "But once again, with summer league, most of those guys are not going to be in the NBA. They'll be playing perhaps in training camps, some of them will be in the D-League and a lot of them will go to Europe. You're evaluating potential NBA players against players that won't be in the NBA. You got to keep that mind. Just because you played well in summer league doesn't mean you're going to make it at the NBA level. But if you can't play well in summer league, that's an indication you can't play at the NBA level. That much we know. So we try to get the kids to come to camp and evaluate them there."
The next step entails the two working with the team once training camp starts Sept. 25, and the only definitive answers involving their future status with the Lakers will come once that begins. This much we do know: The Lakers believe both Ebanks and Caracter showed a good understanding of the triangle, could fulfill a need in the Lakers' frontcourt if injuries become an issue, and the Daily News' Elliott Teaford reports the team is expected to sign them before training camp begins. After the Lakers acquired forward Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, Kupchak told reporters the most the team would be able to offer Ebanks and Caracter are one or two-year deals, which The Times' Mike Bresnahan had reported could be at $473,000 each.
"We liked our true rookies in summer league but that doesn't mean anything," Kupchak said. "You don't know how they're going to work out. But it's always nice to have young players that you can work with and hope to develop."
Below is a breakdown assessing whether Ebanks or Caracter remaining on the Lakers would be the best option
The case for Ebanks to be on the Lakers: Ebanks' profile fits several areas that would fit into the Lakers quite nicely. He's already drawn comparisons to former Laker Trevor Ariza, both for his looks and size. His defensive toughness would nicely complement Ron Artest and Matt Barnes. And he already has a relationship with Artest and Lamar Odom after growing up in Queens, N.Y. It's unclear how many minutes Ebanks could get, simply because the front line is pretty stacked already with Artest and Barnes, but if Luke Walton's back continues to be an issue, Ebanks would have an opportunity for some run.
The case for Ebanks to go elsewhere (other team, D-League, Europe): As impressive as Ebanks looked on offense in summer league, that skill set is very deceptive. I did an interview with MetroNews Radio Network's Chip Fontanazza, who covered Ebanks during his two years at West Virginia, and he mentioned that Ebanks' main weakness involves his outside shooting. Being with the Lakers would help mask that problem because he wouldn't be expected to contribute much on offense. But it's hard to really hone in on shooting without getting much playing time. Taking extra shots in practice surely can help, but it doesn't always translate into games. Case in point, I saw Adam Morrison and Sasha Vujacic at numerous points last year bury shot after shot after practice, which really meant little in the long run.
The case for Caracter to be on the Lakers: For someone who has prided himself on maturing tremendously after transferring from Louisville to Texas El Paso, there's no better place to grow as a front-line player than with the Lakers. As much as limited playing time would highly be likely, Caracter could at least use one or two seasons absorbing everything he could from Bynum, Gasol, Odom and Ratliff. All four bring valuable qualities a young player like Caracter could learn from, including how Bynum uses his size, how Gasol utilizes his footwork, how Odom showcases his versatility and Ratliff has perfected his diet to ensure a long career. In return, Caracter could give the type of effort Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga gave in practice, an approach that didn't exactly appear in the box score but helped the Lakers' front line players continue their development.
The case for Caracter to go elsewhere (other team, D-League, Europe): Caracter remarked shortly after being drafted how his conditioning and weight has improved. He said he went from 305 pounds to 277 after his career with the Miners because of more sleep and selective eating habits, and he planned to get down to 270 to show his conditioning isn't an issue. Although Caracter has made strides in that department, the El Paso Times' Bill Knight remarked to me how conditioning still remains an issue he wants to work on. Having limited run doesn't surely help his cause there because nothing really replaces game speed. As much as Caracter would gain in basketball knowledge from the Lakers' front line, his conditioning wouldn't get to where it could be unless he's playing in the game.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: West Virginia forward Devin Ebanks tries to split the defense of Kentucky's Patrick Patterson (54) and DeMarcus Cousins during the Mountaineers' 73-66 victory over the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament's East Regional final. Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images
Photo: Texas El Paso forward Derrick Caracter demonstrates his skills during a pre-draft workout with the Charlotte Bobcats. Credit: Chuck Burton / Associated Press