Today, the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series (aka the Lockout League) begins play in Las Vegas. For those that aren’t familiar, 60 (or so) current (and former) NBA players are gathering in Las Vegas to play some organized pick up games that will be refereed by real officials and played under NBA rules. With the lack of a real summer league (where young players typically go to get run, further their development, and be evaluated by NBA teams), this is the closest thing we’re going to get to real basketball with real NBA players (unless you’re watching EuroBasket or the FIBA America’s tourney).
Among those participating is the Lakers’ very own Derrick Caracter and I, for one, am interested in seeing how he performs in these contests.
Even though he’s only a second year player, Caracter enters a critical time in his tenure with the Lakers. He’s by no means ensured a roster spot; his contract is not guaranteed for next season and there is speculation that he’s not long for the Lakers roster due to his lack of size and his issues staying out of trouble last year. That said, the Lakers’ big man depth could generously be described as shallow with few options outside of their big three of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. There is a role available for a big man of Caracter’s skill set but how far he progresses will be a key component in whether or not he’s retained.
And, to put it mildly, progress is needed. Last season saw a mostly down season for the rookie big man as he had trouble staying on the floor for extended periods without fouling or being a defensive liability. His rebounding numbers weren’t that strong (Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks had higher total rebound rates) and his plus/minus numbers were some of the worst on the team (he had the worst net plus/minus at -56 on the team according to 82games). He flashed some of the offensive polish that drew rave reviews in last year’s summer league but the tendency to rush his shot attempts or over think his positioning too often found him missing shots in his wheelhouse. As the season progressed, his minutes dried up and for a team that needed big man play, that didn’t speak well to his prospects. Overall, the negatives outweighed the positives and a step forward in his development is needed.
However, the Impact Series may just give Caracter his chance to show some of that growth and, ultimately, show that he can contribute to the Lakers next season. The roster he’s been assigned to includes some seasoned NBA players and he should have a good opportunity to get minutes considering he’s one of the only true big men on his team. Playing with this specific group of guys should enable him ample chances to do some of the dirty work that was lacking in his game in his rookie campaign. He’ll be asked to rebound, defend the paint, set good screens, and provide some offense through hustle plays and put backs. If he’s lucky, he’ll also get some low post chances and some shots out of pick and roll sets both as a dive man and when popping out to shoot short jumpers.
If Caracter shows he can excel in this environment, it may be enough for him to stick with the Lakers next year. And really, that’d be a great thing for both him and the team. With what will likely be a condensed training camp period, hold over talent that can contribute will be a big plus for incoming coach Mike Brown. If Caracter proves to be a capable 4th or 5th big man, it will cross a need off the Lakers shopping list in what will surely be a hectic free agency period.
Hopefully Caracter seizes this opportunity to show that he’s ready to be a contributor next year. Because if he doesn’t, the odds are strong that we’ll be saying “former Laker” when discussing him next season.