Second year forward Devin Ebanks began the year as the starting small forward, playing 81 minutes in the first four games before Mike Brown replaced him in the first five with Matt Barnes.
Over the next 52 games, Ebanks logged a total of 73 minutes before a shin injury to Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace's suspension put him back in the starting lineup for the last 10 regular season games and the first six against Denver in the opening round of the playoffs. In the first five games after World Peace's return, Ebanks played a total of four minutes. Monday night in Game 5, Ebanks served as the backup 3 over a slumping Barnes, playing 16 minutes.
Fair to say Ebanks rode the playing time roller coaster this year, a difficult thing for young players.
Which, for Ebanks, basically gets to the crux of it. Due respect to the whole "honor of wearing the purple and gold" thing, he's a kid trying to establish himself in the NBA and needs consistent playing time. No surprise then Ebanks said the primary goal of his free agent summer, whatever form it might take, is to find a team offering just that. It's certainly possible the Lakers could oblige, given the fluid situation at small forward. World Peace is a potential amnesty candidate, Barnes is a free agent, and Christian Eyenga is Christian Eyenga.
Ebanks runs the floor well, crashes the boards, has shown signs of a decent mid-range game, and works very, very hard on and off the floor. He's also a young (22) athlete (athlete) in a team short on both who can do things like this.
The Lakers exercise some control over Ebanks' future. With a qualifying offer of about $1 million, the Lakers can match any deal sent his way, and given how little he's played it's hard to believe big money offers are forthcoming. All things being equal, holding on to Ebanks would be wise. Given how little flexibility the Lakers have filling myriad holes, constructing next year's roster will likely require a couple leaps of faith, especially on their young (or if you prefer a different term, cheap) talent. Over a full season, Ebanks may or may not be a rotation quality NBA player -- it seems like the potential is there, but the sample size is still too small -- but if they give him a shot and he succeeds, the Lakers would likely have a bargain on their hands.