As you’ve probably read from a lot of the Lakers blogs and websites out there, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter have impressed many – including us here at Forum Blue and Gold. While there was much that I saw that both of the Lakers second round draft picks need to improve on, this post will focus mainly on the positive that both ball players have brought to the table with some thoughts from Darius intertwined with mine.
Off top, I really enjoyed watching both of them play through their first three games. The Lakers Summer League team implemented some of the triangle offense principles and it was nice to see both Ebanks and Caracter have some comfort within the offense. What I noticed early and often was that both of them really wanted to make sure that they kept the right spacing within the offense, filled gaps and moved well without the ball. There were moments where they seemed confused about where to go in the offense, but for the most part they did a great job at being in the right place at the right time. As Darius had gone on record to say before, the triangle offense is perfect for developing various skills for each individual player. With that being said, I thought we were able to see multiple talents from each player during the course of the first couple of games. I’ll start with Caracter.
Before Caracter played any summer league games, the back-story on his game was that he was very good around the rim and could finish with both hands. As early as the first quarter of his first summer league game, we saw flashes of what scouts were talking about. I haven’t seen a defined go to move for Caracter yet, but he has shown a propensity to go to the right block and finish with either his right or left hand with jump hooks. He’s been extremely patient when he’s had the ball and is very confident in operating around bigger players. He’s shown the ability to create space with his body and can finish when contact has been made. These first two clips show Caracter operating on the right block, finishing with both his right and left hand. In the second clip, pay attention to how he feels the double team. At first he kicks the ball out to repost, then turns away from the second double team to finish with his right hand. There are a lot of veteran post players in the NBA who cannot make these kind of plays.
These next two clips show that Character has the ability to also stretch defenses. The reason I’m showing a lot of these clips is because they’re looks they’ll actually get within the scope of the Lakers offense. The first clip features Caracter spotting up at the pinch post and knocking down the shot. We’ve seen Pau Gasol take this shot hundreds of times during the course of these last two and a half seasons. Seeing Caracter being able to knock down a shot like this has to make the Lakers coaching staff extremely excited about the 58th pick in the draft. I included this second clip not only because he knocks down a 17-footer as the shot clock expires, but because he kept the possession alive twice – once grabbing an offensive rebound and the second time chasing down a deflected pass. As the Lakers continue to age, a youthful ability to come off the bench and produce high energy plays that not only give your team an extra possession, but also leads to points, is exactly how you make NBA teams after being drafted late in the second round. From Darius:
His mid-range jumper is even better than I anticipated and he seems comfortable facing up out to 17 feet and canning the jumper. Multiple times I’ve seen him execute the high post flash from the weak side, make the catch, and then turn and bury the jumper against a late close out. This action is a staple of the Triangle for the PF/C and the fact that he’s already showing comfort with this is a very good sign.
For Devin Ebanks, his story thus far is that he is of the mold of Trevor Ariza, and those comparisons are very fair. Ebanks has been one of those guys who does all of the little things, but has also been able to score, too. He’s grabbed rebounds, has had some steals, moves very well without the basketball and is very athletic. He’s been a bit awkward with some of his finishes around the basket, but the most important part is the fact that he’s finished. The first two clips feature Ebanks show that athleticism and why he’s been compared to Trevor Ariza. The first one shows him picking up a loose ball, taking it to the rim, absorbing the contact and finishing. The second shows him turning Denver over at the top of the key and going coast-to-coast and finishing with his left hand.
These next two clips are what I enjoyed the most from Ebanks. The first clip shows Ebanks feeding the pinch post and cutting ball side to receive a pass and drive to the hoop. Again, we’ve seen Kobe run this play with Pau Gasol hundreds of times. This is the triangle offense in its most basic form, but it’s still the triangle and is something that he could feasibly see in real game time action with the Lakers. The second clip features Ebanks spotting up for a three-pointer and knocking it down. Again, if Ebanks finds the floor with any kind of significant minutes, he’s going to see a lot of wide-open three pointers because of the rest of the talent of this Lakers team. From Darius:
He’s been a much smoother offensive player than I thought he’d be and has shown a comfort level shooting the ball that I did not expect. And while the results have not always been there, I think his willingness to shoot the ball and his confidence to be an offensive threat is something that some players that are labeled as “offensively challenged” never quite show. So, his mindset is something I’ve been impressed with.
For both Darius and me, Caracter has impressed more than Ebanks has, but that isn’t saying that Ebanks hasn’t impressed at all. I think both of them are a year or two away from seeing significant minutes on a regular basis with the Lakers, but that goes without being said considering the talent already on this Lakers team. I think spending some time in the D-League will be extremely beneficial for both guys. I’ll let Darius close things out with a few thoughts on each player.
On Caracter: Besides the skills he’s flashed, I think I’ve just as impressed with his competitive drive. He’s been changing ends well when transitioning from offense to defense. He’s active on the glass and goes after balls that are out of his area – a trait exhibited by the very good rebounders. He’s willing to bang in the post for both offensive and defensive position and will fight a player for loose balls when it’s a toss up play. And while it’s difficult to put too much stock in the success of a player in Summer League, I can say that watching a player compete is one aspect of the game that translates to actual games. If a player is willing to fight for court space and ball here, he’s likely to do it when the games actually matter. And the fact that Caracter is showing that now bodes well for the Lakers down the line.
On Ebanks: While his overall skill level still needs work (the release on his jumper can be awkward at times and his footwork needs some polish), I think from an athletic standpoint he’s ready to play in the NBA. He shows good quickness to the ball and excellent body control when attacking and finishing at the rim. His length is just tremendous and in his match up with Donte Green and Omri Casspi, I was quite impressed with his ability to simultaneously contain penetration while still recovering to contest (and even block) the shot attempt. I’d like to see constistently stronger perfromances on defense from Ebanks, but in a scrimmage environment, I can live with some mistakes and some uneven results. It’s not like he’s loafing out there – he’s just not always doing the technically correct thing.