Lockout Fallout: Are Young Players Improving?

Darius Soriano —  July 5, 2011

Coming into this off-season, the Lakers are in an interesting place as a franchise. Without making a single move, they’re still contenders to win the title, possessing top shelf talent at multiple positions and all with championship experience. That said, their dismissal from the playoffs has led to questions about the viability of this roster and the critique that improvements need to be made for them to not only compete next year, but for years to come.

Improvement of this kind can normally happen three ways. The Lakers could either make a trade for (or sign in free agency) younger players that still possess a high enough talent level that the roster is still competitive or they can hope that some of the younger players on their roster take a step forward in their development to go from non-contributors to viable rotation players. With the lockout in full effect, option one is off the table. There will be no trades or free agent signing period without a collective bargaining agreement in place and, furthermore, once a deal is in place who knows how restrictive the rules will be for the Lakers to actually improve their roster through these avenues.

That leaves us with option two and the improvement of young players on the roster. Currently, the Lakers have 4 players – all of them 2nd round picks – that we’re all hopeful could become contributors down the line. Both Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter were on the roster last season and showed varying degrees of effectiveness in the limited minutes they earned. Both obviously have strides to make as players, but both also flashed enough skill to prove that they belong in the league. And then, of course, there are the two 2nd round picks from this past draft. While I’m not looking for them to earn many minutes next season, both Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock are intriguing prospects that bring specific skill sets that are needed additions on the current roster.

For these 4 players, the summer is normally the time that we get to see, first hand, how their development is coming. And with that, get our first hints at whether or not they are improving at a rate that equates to them potentially contributing next season.

Only, with the lockout, that chance is now gone. Over at Land O’ Lakers, the Kamentzky brothers spoke with Andrew Goudelock and he explained how the lockout affects him:

It’s tough for me because I don’t get to be in a summer league, and be able to show myself, and showcase my talents during the summer session. But it’s my job to stay in shape, keep playing, and get ready for when it’s over.

For Ebanks and Caracter this lack of summer showcasing could hurt them even more. They both already have a season under their belt and both have been tasked with coming into this next season with improved games. In exit interviews, Ebanks was asked to work on his ball handling and jump shot in order to potentially earn minutes at shooting guard. Meanwhile, Caracter must prove that the commitments he made to improving his body are sustained and that he can continue to grow as a defender and rebounder at this level. Neither player has a guaranteed contract for next season and now neither has the ability to show the Lakers that they’ve taken the steps forward that they’ve been asked to take.

The fact is, all of these players have holes in their games but don’t have an opportunity to show the Lakers that those weaknesses are getting smaller. And that means that the Lakers have no clue if the young players they have in their pipeline are potential contributors or even worth a roster spot. And or an aging team that could use an influx of youth, that’s a problem.

Granted, the Lakers can still win with their veteran laden roster doing most of the heavy lifting. But, a touch of youth and athleticism wouldn’t hurt. And with the lockout taking away these players’ chances to show that they could be a part of that solution, both the players and the organization suffers.

So, while we sit back and evaluate the lockout from the perspective of the union and the owners, the terms of the new CBA, and if there will be an agreement before the season starts, it’s also good to remember that the time we’re losing now is also important. This time of the year is when young players prove themselves, but this year, the question of whether or not they’re improving will remain unanswered.

Darius Soriano

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23 responses to Lockout Fallout: Are Young Players Improving?

  1. The problem with the youngs not being able to showcase their talents, is that we will evaluate them “on the fly”, i.e., when they hit the court. That means no mercy or excuses. That’s good…and bad.

    Ebanks is NBA ready, Caracter is not. We saw that last season. Morris looks like ready, AG I’m not sure (I hope he is, we really need a 3-point shooter).

    Time will tell.

    Cheers.

  2. So does this make it more or less likely that the Lakers will (eventually) try to sign veterans to address the weakpoints from last season? And in a (what-I-think-is-a-related) question, how much of the firing of scouts/Ronnie Lester/etc was a cost-cutting measure, and how much was just a change in the personnel?

  3. #2. I think more likely they chase a veteran. But, that’s sound strategy regardless if these young guys show promise. The Lakers, like any contender, need contingency plans.

  4. If Shannon doesn’t come back, I’m thinking a veteran SG would be the top priority. Right now they only have the rookie backing up Kobe.

    Even though the PG position isn’t great at least they’re 3 deep at the moment with Fish, Blake and Morris.

    A back up veteran center would probably be third priority.

    SF and PF are probably the lowest priority right now given the players they have.

    That would be my guess anyways. Although with the lockout, not much to be done currently.

  5. i think the lakers’ (unpopular) cost-cutting measures are pretty reasonable. As recent cba reports have explained, player salaries are tied to the BRI, so the bottom line is that owners must downsize to maximize profitability.

    I feel like Buss is going to be a trend-setter in this regard. We’re going to see teams be much more parsimonious when it comes to investing in their teams. I think we’ll see basketball operations have to swallow huge budget cuts, while the business/marketing/sales divisions will be burdened with greater responsiblity to make money.

    the group who’s going to suffer the most from the upcoming CBA are the scouts, trainers, assistants, equipment managers, arena staff, etc.

  6. My guess is that the backup center is actually the #1 priority. We know what happened last year, and I am thinking part of the problem were the heavy minutes Phil played Pau earlier in the year.

    The second priority would probably be a veteran, quick PG. Yeah, I know, we have 3, but we know two of them cannot start to guard quick PGs in the new system and the 3rd is a rookie.

    With Kobe’s backup we actually have several options. Eubanks, Barnes, rookie AG, and even Lamar could help out in certain situations. While not ideal, I think the key weakness areas of teams is usually PG and Center and these are also our weaknesses.

  7. Hopefully point guard is first priority considering that a backup center will only play spot minutes behind LO, Gasol,or Bynum. While a pg would have a chance to play significant minutes with only Fish or Blake too unseat for playing time.

  8. I agree, signing a vet big is a priority. There’s a real question whether Caracter will be asked back and Theo certainly won’t be back. Joe Smith never really had the chance to show whether he’s got anything left, I’ll just assume he’s gone as well. There’s also the real possibility of Lamar being moved as, has been discussed and debated in prior threads. So yeah, we need bigs. We might as well start opening up all the file cabinets including the Cleveland Brown’s – there’s bound to be guys who’ve been through Mike Brown’s training camps etc., who we’ll be hearing about at some point.

  9. Rusty Shackleford July 5, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I must say I’m disappointed that ESPN.com hasn’t done away with the Heat Index now that they didn’t win the first of their 6 NBA championships. In my opinion I think a lot of the people ranting about how much they hated Miami this year sounded like idiots but the Heat Index is so trashy. It’s a tabloid.

  10. #9. I couldn’t disagree more. Arnovitz, Haberstroh, Windhorst, and Wallace did a fantastic job of covering that team throughout the year. They weren’t homers and provided great analysis all season. I think the dislike of that team generally clouded people’s vision as to how good that site covered the team.

  11. You know, Rusty, I’m glad you brought up the Heat.

    I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to get LBJ some championships. Why not eliminate the playoffs? LeBron has already been on two teams with the best regular season record, so he would have a real shot moving forward if only the best regular season record determined the championship.

    In fact, maybe this could apply retroactively! Then, LBJ would have two rings (just like that), and wouldn’t Kobe “only” have three? It would really tilt the GOAT debate in LeBron’s favor as well …

  12. 10, Darius, I think it’s the fact that we’re using such great talents as Arnovitz, Haberstroh, Windhorst, and Wallace to basically exclusively cover the Heat that rubs people the wrong way. Why not deploy them as a league-wide blog covering the NBA, and not just one team? It seems strange to me that ESPN would take 4 of its best bloggers and have them pander to the casual bandwagon masses.

    The Heat Index exists because ESPN saw all the bandwagon fans coming, and realized that they could capitalize on it by having a blog dedicated to the Heat linked on their main page and under the ESPN brand name. But their writing style isn’t for the casual masses; their appeal is to the hardcore NBA fans. Maybe ESPN was hoping to transform those bandwagon fans into returning visitors via prose, but I doubt a blog, especially one which relies heavily on exposition and not narrative or fluff, would be appealing to someone who before this year had little interest in the NBA.

  13. I’d co-sign with Zephid’s opinion re: The Heat Index. Add to that the fact that there is a direct link from the ESPN NBA page, whereas the closest any other team gets is the “City” link that LA, NY, Boston, Chicago & Dallas have, which includes other teams. If there was a Miami page that The Heat Index was a part of, I would have nowhere near the antipathy towards it that I do.

  14. Well erbody seems to dismiss Trey Johnson as Kobe’s backup. The man has game. Ya got talent in ur backyard…use it. The only need the Lakers got is to dump Walton and find a suitable #5 to backup Bynum. The core should not be playing over 28 minutes a game……period.

  15. Bring back Derick…Devin..! Morris and the other rook….bam…pickup a 5…ya in the house like roaches. 1 – 7 should not average more than 28 minutes per game. Kobe….let the kids do their thing and keep ur minutes MAX 25 per game.
    Word!!!! Ya’ll need to stop trip’n and recognize. Westside baby

  16. You’ve been in dis league 16 years…screw dat 40 minutes per game crap. Make ur contribution..teach..motivate. Let dem kids soak up some minutes and u get another 2 rings…then get outta dodge.

  17. Well, about the heat index.

    There is no need for it now.

    They lost and the hype won’t be the same this year.

    It should be a one and done type of article/series/blog whatever for the year, but it will lose whatever meaning it is supposed to have this upcoming season.

    Bye.

  18. 11) R,
    “I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to get LBJ some championships. Why not eliminate the playoffs? LeBron has already been on two teams with the best regular season record, so he would have a real shot moving forward if only the best regular season record determined the championship”

    That’s a great idea!! Pretty much everybody agrees that one of the issues the NBA has is that the season is so long, and so many of the regular season games are meaningless. So just do away with the playoffs!! It takes care of both of those issues, plus it would get LeBron his title(s)!

  19. #12. Zephid,
    I think you’re digging too deep into this. I think all ESPN wanted was to cover the Heat the best way they could by bringing on people that they thought highly of. Looking at it objectively, TrueHoop and the THN look to provide smart analysis for every team in the league, not pander to fans. I think that was their goal with that site.

    Also, those that think the Heat Index should go away because the team lost are missing the point of basketball coverage. If the Lakers lose should this site go away? How about Land O Lakers or Silver Screen and Roll? The point of the best sites (include this one in those ranks if you want) is to provide smart analysis, have some fun, and inform the reader. Why should those goals change because the outcome isn’t a championship?

    Lastly, if folks think the Heat hype or interest in how they do will die down because they lost, I think you’re in for a rude awakening. Whether you think they deserve it or not, that team is now operating on the same plane as the Lakers & Celtics in terms of national interest. They have star power and just went to the Finals. To think people will not care next season simply because they lost is short sighted.

  20. In re to the lockout and the effect it will have on non-first round rookies and marginal players: some of them will take advantage of the situation; work their tails off and be physically ready to go and showing improvement in their “weak” areas. Some of them won’t have the internal drive, or the right people around them pushing them, and will lose out on a great opportunity.

    Darius,
    Have you heard anything about whether the Lakers players are doing anything organized, or is it pretty much all on their own?

  21. #20. Exhelodrvr,
    I haven’t heard of anything organized as of yet. It wouldn’t surprise me of this drags on that the players get together to work out, but I would think that would occur only if the lockout extended into the start of the season. Right now, players are used to working on their own, so I don’t expect that to change in the short term.

  22. Rusty Shackleford July 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    @#10 – Then make an “Index” on ESPN.com for anyone expected to compete for a title going into every NBA season. Would we have seen one for the Mavs? It would be like college football.

    I agree with you that peoples dislike (because mass media made it a fac) for the Heat blinded them to even watch the games without spewing hatred toward them. And I’m not taking anything away from the writers. They were instructed to do something and they did it with diligence.

    I guess I’m just a homer but I did not like seeing the Lakers shot at a 3-peat be completely overshadowed (on ESPN.com) by the Heat Index.