Thus far in Summer League competition, the sort-of-Lakers have played twice, and lost twice. Not that it matters, since final scores are among the least important aspects of the competition in Vegas, to the point it's reasonable to ask why they bother keeping score.
The primary purpose is player development and evaluation, and while everything happening there comes with a very important caveat -- it may be the NBA"s Summer League, but Summer League ain't the NBA -- on that end the Lakers are off to a good start. Both of their second-round picks, small forward Devin Ebanks and power forward Derrick Caracter, have impressed. As ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin notes, so has Ibrahim Jaaber, looking to fill what could be a vacant spot as the fifth guard on the depth chart.
Some of the early reviews:
Ebanks, who scored 24 points Saturday against Denver after debuting Friday with 21, tops the NBA.com's Summer League Rookie Ladder. (Caracter is third.)
Caracter went for 20/10 in Game 1, then followed with 17/12 yesterday afternoon (and happily, cut his personal foul count from nine -- not a typo -- to four). Writes ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz, in Sin City covering the games: "Caracter has dominated the low block on the offensive end of the floor during his first 28 hours in Las Vegas. Caracter gobbles up space by the yard down low. Both Friday and Saturday, he was the most physical presence on the court when the Lakers had the ball. Putbacks, explosions from the elbow, back-ins that leave defenders crumpled beneath the glass -- all of them are part of Caracter's repertoire."
Arnovitz quotes ESPN/Scouts Inc.'s David Thorpe regarding Caracter after Friday's game: "His nine fouls show how aggressively he moved around the floor. He looked like he was in good shape -- very nimble and agile. He was composed around the basket with both his left and right hand, but he doesn't have a plan in the post yet. Still, he played with great attentiveness and a willingness to share the ball. Botttom line: He looked like a first-rounder." (Additional comments from Thorpe can be read in the link above about Jaaber.)
More from Arnovitz, on Ebanks: "At West Virginia, Lakers' draft pick Devin Ebanks established a reputation as a dogged perimeter defender, a versatile small forward who can make plays for teammates and ... an atrocious shooter from distance. On Friday, Ebanks exhibited all those positive attributes. He and Ibrahim Jabeer hooked up on a stellar give-and-go when Ebanks darted a pass across the lane on the break, then finished the play when Ibrahim returned the ball to him at the rim. A few minutes later, Ebanks knocked the ball away from Austin Daye from behind in transition. No surprise there. But Ebanks looked confident -- and competent -- as a shooter on Friday. He converted 9 of his 16 shots en route to 21 points. If Ebanks can give defenses any reason whatsoever to guard him away from the basket, he could be a serviceable NBA player."
Forum Blue and Gold checks in with their evaluation of Friday's action.
I managed to catch bits of Friday's game, and saw Saturday's in full on TV. Because the range of talent on the floor is often very wide, guys have little familiarity with each other and in the end tend to play more for themselves than the team (generally understandable), officiating is wildly inconsistent, and so on, evaluating a player's performance is tricky. It's one reason success and failure in these games isn't a great indicator of how a player will fare against genuine NBA competition.
Still, it's generally pretty easy to see who sticks out, both positively and negatively, and the goal is for "your guys" to look like some of the best players on the floor. Certainly that's been true of Ebanks and Caracter, even balancing bad moments with good. Ebanks really does play like a Trevor Ariza clone- not yet at TA's level, but the resemblance (literally and figuratively) is pretty uncanny. Caracter gets after it on the glass, and has variety in his offensive game. I was particularly impressed Saturday after one first half sequence in which he put the ball on the floor, protected it in the lane, then finished at the basket for the and-one.
Post-draft evaluations across the web had almost universal praise for L.A.'s haul, noting how they'd found first round caliber talent falling, for one reason or another, to the 43rd and 58th picks. Through two games in Vegas, nothing seems to refute the notion. Doesn't guarantee either Ebanks or Caracter will make the team or forge solid NBA careers, but it beats the alternative.
The Lakers have space to carry some inexpensive talent at the end of the bench. You get the impression they'd actually prefer it that way, meaning the last three games in Vegas are worth paying attention to (they're viewable on NBA TV, if you have it).
We'll be in the building for the games Monday and Tuesday, and will pass along what we see.