Lakers forward Devin Ebanks will become a restricted free agent this summer. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
This is the 10th in a series of posts grading the Lakers on the 2011-12 season.
Player: Devin Ebanks
How he performed: 4 points on 41.6% shooting from the field and 2.3 rebounds in 16.5 minutes in the regular season; 4.1 points on 41% shooting from the field and 2.2 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in the post-season.
The good: It would've been easy and somewhat understandable for Ebanks to have lost his cool during a frustrating season. His role became one of feast or famine when it came to playing time. Ebanks started at the beginning of the season, during Kobe Bryant's shin injury or Metta World Peace's suspension. And then Ebanks sat on the bench as the third small forward on the depth chart. There proved to be very little in between. Nonetheless, Ebanks maintained a professional attitude and adapted solidly toward either circumstance.
When Ebanks sat on the bench, he never publicly complained and mostly remained consistent in staying late at practice and arriving early for pre-game warmups. When Ebanks suddenly earned a bigger opportunity, he showed his potential without drastically treating the increased playing as an audition tape. In the 12 games Ebanks started in the regular season, he averaged 6.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, nearly one assist, and half a block in 24 minutes. These numbers aren't eye-popping, but it showed Ebanks was capable of jumping into the fire without making significant mistakes.
Ebanks also showed some glimpses that he could have standout performances.
On April 22, the Lakers appeared ready to collapse against Oklahoma City. World Peace earned an ejection for elbowing James Harden, giving the Thunder player a concussion. Matt Barnesthen sprained his right ankle. Ebanks proved ready to step in and take on a bigger role in an emergency, making two steals in the final minute of the second overtime to help secure the win. Though he shot only one-of-four from the field, Ebanks scored eight points by attacking the basket and going six-of-10 from the free-throw line. And more importantly, Ebanks held Kevin Durant to five-of-19 shooting when he played the entire fourth quarter and subsequent overtimes.
That continued in the playoffs. In Game 1 of the Lakers' first-round series against the Nuggets, Ebanks posted 12 points and five rebounds. Denver Coach George Karlhad feared the Lakers would boast a "wild-card" player outside of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. But it appeared Karl didn't expect Ebanks to fill that role, considering he struggled even pronouncing his name.
Yet, Ebanks proved a number of times this season that he's a dependable role player if simply given the chance.
The bad:Of course, there's the sparse playing time. Ebanks played in only 24 of 66 games. From Jan. 3 to April 6, Ebanks played a combined five minutes through 34 games. Despite the team's drastic need for a consistent backup shooting guard, Ebanks surprisingly wasn't given a chance there until Bryant suffered his aforementioned injury. These circumstances, though, mostly reflect how Brown allocated his minutes and wanted continuity after endlessly shuffling the small-forward position at the beginning of the season.
Still, Ebanks lacked skill in a few areas that could've made Brown more comfortable with playing him. Though Ebanks didn't make any significant mistakes during the first four games he started, he appeared overwhelmed with the moment. Ebanks missed all nine of his three-point attempts and didn't correct his arc until late in the season. Though no one ever questioned Ebanks' effort, he didn't mix it up on the boards as well as he could have. And even if Ebanks never made enough mistakes to severely hurt the team, most of the time he hardly made a significant difference in the game.
Even with Ebanks' relative inexperience as a second-year player, he showed promising signs that he's worthy of the Lakers re-signing him this off-season. He's young, hungry and would be relatively inexpensive. The Lakers probably will part ways with Matt Barnes, while Metta World Peace is in the tail-end of his career. It would be foolish not to keep Ebanks assuming he doesn't draw significant interest on the open market outside of the Lakers' affordability. Just as he proved for most of this season, Ebanks simply needs time and reps to improve what already appears to be a fundamentally sound game.