Friday, June 25, 2010
Kupchak: Wait and see on draft
By Dave McMenamin
NEW YORK -- Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak had a day to let his team's draft sink in, but he wanted about 364 more before he would determine whether his selections in the second round -- Devin Ebanks, No. 43 out of West Virginia, and Derrick Caracter, No. 58 out of Texas El Paso -- were solid choices.
Kupchak said he would have been pleased if someone had told him before the draft he'd have the chance to pick those players.
"But in terms of a grade, I think you have to ask me that question a year from now," Kupchak said in a phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday.
Still, Kupchak was satisfied to acquire two players he assumed would not be available so late in the selection process.
"Everybody does their board differently," Kupchak said. "If you talk to 30 GMs, you'll get a myriad of scenarios where Devin may be on their board, but on our board. We did not expect him to be there when we drafted. That's not unusual. There's always somebody that's there that you didn't expect to be there because you thought that person would be gone."
Under usual circumstances, a back-to-back championship team such as the Lakers would not have room to hold on to two second-round draft picks, but with the team already committing close to $16 million over the luxury tax for just eight of the 13 players it needs to field an NBA roster, the late selections will get a hard look.
"When you have a roster like we do, which is frontloaded with players that make a substantial amount of money, you balance it with two or three players that you hope can make a contribution and get paid at a level that allows you to add them to the roster," Kupchak said. "Young players, in addition to them making a contribution, you give them time to grow and see if they can develop. So that's another benefit to getting a young drafted player."
The minimum contract for Ebanks and Caracter, should the Lakers sign them, is $473,604.
"We'll need some help there this year," Kupchak said. "D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell are free agents, so there's some spots there that you can fill if you can maybe show some promise."
Mbenga and Powell both made $959,111 last season and will be looking for raises. By going with the second-round picks rather than the tried and true veterans, the Lakers will save a minimum of $971,014 in player salary next season.
Kupchak offered his quick-hitting scouting reports on both picks.
On Ebanks: "He's a young player. He played a couple years in college primarily in the front court. Right now, for our summer program that starts in about a week, we're looking at him playing in the front court if he makes the Lakers' squad. I think in year one it would be as a small forward and then anything beyond that, it remains to be seen. Right now, I think his NBA position would be small forward."
And on Caracter: "I like the fact that he can shoot the ball a little bit. He worked on his conditioning, which has always been an issue. He's a very, very talented kid. ... He's another player that we had ranked a little higher. Certainly his high school career was well documented. I think he struggled a little bit in his college career which was open in him going to Chicago. At 6-9, he can be a NBA frontcourt player."
The buzz on draft night was that low-cost commitment second-round picks were hot commodities in the wake of a potential lockout next summer and that Western Conference foe Denver tried to buy the Lakers No. 58 pick, but Kupchak said it was business as usual.
"We had about 10 teams that wanted to buy a pick from us yesterday, that's pretty normal," Kupchak said. "I think it has more to do with teams positioning themselves for the summer and next season [than preparing for a lockout]."
After spending the bulk of the conversation focusing on the far-away future, Kupchak addressed the immediate decision affecting the team: whether or not Phil Jackson will retire or not.
"I'll communicate with him through text or e-mail, just to keep him up to date with what's happening," Kupchak said of his correspondence plan with Jackson as he makes the long trek to his summer home in Montana to clear his head. "He and I spent about an hour together yesterday, I don't expect to talk to him until next week until maybe when he calls when he tells us what he decides to do."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.