Heading into the draft, we all thought there was a need for a back court player (preferably and PG or a combo guard that could handle the ball) and potentially a big man (preferably a Center). However, picking at #43 and #58 doesn’t afford the luxury of cherry picking positions and usually leads to just swooping up the best player available on a team’s draft board. And if that player fits a need too, then great. So when the Lakers’ picks came up in the mid, then late, second round they did just that by grabbing WVU’s SF, Devin Ebanks at #43 and UTEP’s PF, Derrick Caracter at #58.
Ebanks is a pick that has grown on me the more I’ve seen of him and the more that I’ve read. When the pick was announced my first thoughts were questions about if he’d make the team at all and if he did whether or not he’d ever see the floor at a position where Ron, Kobe, and even Odom will all see time next season. However, after hearing Mitch Kupchak talk about Ebanks and how he may fit on this team, I understand more of why he was chosen when there were potentially other prospects on the board that filled more pressing needs. Mitch talked openly about how Luke Walton’s back injury is an issue that is still up in the air and may affect his ability to reclaim his pre-injury form next season. And if that’s the case, back up wing goes from slight need (in a replacing Ammo kind of way) to a much bigger need (in a we don’t want Kobe and Artest playing 40+ minutes a night kind of way).
All season long the Lakers saw the effects of not having a capable (and healthy) back up SF on the roster. And if Ebanks can end up being a guy that can play 5-10 minutes a night, it would go a long way towards ensuring that some of the Lakers main wing players don’t get worn out. This isn’t to say that Ebanks will definitely fill this role, but he’s a talented young player that is capable and he’ll be given the chance to show that he can step in when he plays in Summer league and (hopefully) at training camp. On a side note, it’s been mentioned many times but this kid is a dead on ringer for Ariza. Same build, similar skill set, and he even wears #3. In the linked to interview, Kupchak mentions some of the similarities and differences between Ebanks and Ariza, but it’s clear that the Lakers are hopeful Ebanks can develop into an Ariza type of player that plays good defense and works on his shot to the point that he’s a capable threat from outside. If the Lakers’ gamble pays off, we may look at Ebanks as a guy that fills a variety of holes in the Lakers roster as he’s a guy that can get out and run in the open court, can finish above the rim, and can provide some slashing in the Lakers half court sets. With Farmar likely gone and Shannon potentially joining him, the Lakers could use an infusion of these particular skills and if Ebanks sticks on the roster, the team will get them.
As for Caracter, he seems to be a boom or bust type of pick. However, that’s the exact type of player that you take at #58 in the second round. If he shows he’s on the right path and plays well you’ve got a potential contributor for a very small investment; if he doesn’t perform, he gets cut and due to that small investment the team can go in a different direction without having to second guess. Caracter’s undoubtedly a talented player that has the requisite offensive skills to play in the NBA. By all accounts, he’s got good hands, strong footwork, a wide frame that he uses to effectively earn post up position, and even possesses a face up game out to 15 feet. He’s also a very good rebounder on both ends of the court. I mean, his college stats from his Junior (and most recent) season – 14 points, 8 rebounds, 56.7% shooting in 27 mpg - show a player that is efficient and worth taking a flyer on.
However, there are some red flags with Caracter. He reportedly clashed with Rick Pitino while at Louisville and showed questionable work ethic on the court and in the classroom to the point that he ended up transferring to UTEP after his Sophmore year. He is a bit undersized, has struggled with his conditioning and weight, and there have been reports that he’s an immature player that isn’t the most solid of locker room presences. Obviously these are all qualities that are difficult to take onto any team, but coming to an organization that is as structured and led by quality people as the Lakers can be a postive influence on a player with these question marks. However, it will be on the player to show that he’s matured to the point that he warrants sticking around.
Both of these players have NBA level talent, however it will be a matter of how they develop and if they have the work ethic to improve their respective games to the point that they can stick on the roster. Mitch has already said that both players will be invited to training camp and both are expected to play on the Lakers summer league team. And while both are long shots to be contributors (and Caracter may even be a long shot to make the team), I’m happy with both of these picks. It’s never easy filling in the gaps of a top heavy roster and when attempting to do it from the mid/late second round of a draft with questionable depth, it’s even harder. But I feel the Lakers have done well for themselves by drafting players with good skills and live, active games that could end up adding a dimension of youth and bounce to a team that, while not old, wasn’t getting any younger (especially if Farmar and Shannon leave).