Best Fits for Small Forward Free Agent Devin Ebanks

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

After three seasons of sporadic playing time with the Los Angeles Lakers, intriguing small forward Devin Ebanks is looking for a new team and a fresh start.

According to Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy, there are a handful of teams interested in providing him with that opportunity.

It might seem surprising that three teams, two of which figure to be in the vicinity of the postseason mix, would want to take a shot on a player who has never averaged more than four points per game. But a closer look at Ebanks' skill set reveals a promising young player who could actually make an impact in the right situation.

Where, exactly, is that "right situation," though? Let's discuss.


Atlanta Hawks

At a springy 6'9", Ebanks is an excellent rebounder. And right now, the Atlanta Hawks are set to open the 2013-14 season with Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll as their small forwards, which means there won't be much in the way of solid board work from that position.

Sure, Al Horford and Paul Millsap will haul down their share of rebounds, but assuming Millsap no longer moonlights as an oversized 3, the Hawks could find it difficult to clear the glass as a team. Last year, Atlanta ranked 26th in rebound rate, according to ESPN—and that was with Josh Smith on the roster.

With the painfully undersized backcourt of Jeff Teague and Louis Williams, the Hawks guards don't figure to be the source of any improvement on the glass.

So perhaps Ebanks could work nicely as a rotation piece for the Hawks.

His rebound rate of 11.5 (subscription required) would have ranked 16th among small forwards last year if he'd played enough minutes to qualify. For reference, that figure would have been narrowly better than the ones posted by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, per ESPN.

We're taking liberties with small samples here, but Ebanks' ability to attack the glass is undeniable.

Atlanta seems like a solid fit.


Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic should be targeting Ebanks, if only because they're in the business of accumulating young, unproven talent.

Moves to acquire Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris worked out splendidly last season, so Magic general manager Rob Hennigan clearly has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough. Given Orlando's track record, maybe Ebanks should take the Magic's interest in him as a compliment.

With Harris and Maurice Harkless set to occupy the bulk of the minutes at small forward, it doesn't look like there'd be much of an opportunity for Ebanks to get a shot. But if the Magic want to complement their offensively promising duo at the 3 with someone who can actually defend, there might be a role for Ebanks after all.

We have to ignore Ebanks' individual defensive numbers from last season in this portion of the analysis. (Aren't statistics handy that way?) The sample size is tiny, and the PER of 20.2 he allowed to opposing small forwards, per, suffers greatly from the Lakers' teamwide aversion to defense in 2012-13.

Ebanks has great length, works hard and understands the nuances of team defense better than most players with his experience. The PER of 12.4 he allowed against small forwards in 2011-12 is much more indicative of his true talent.

It's a little crowded in Orlando, but there's always room for defense.


Dallas Mavericks

Young players need mentors, and Ebanks could do a lot worse than Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki as potential teachers. That makes the Dallas Mavericks a very good landing spot for the inexperienced West Virginia product.

As was the case in Orlando, playing time will be tough to come by with the Mavs. But Ebanks could benefit greatly from a season-long seminar from three veteran forwards who have seen it all.

Of course, finding the right fit for Ebanks is about more than picking a team that best furthers his long-term development; it also requires the team in question to actually need him.

Dallas has plenty of shooting in Nowitzki and Jose Calderon—not to mention the trigger-happy Monta Ellis. That's probably for the best when it comes to Ebanks, whose 2012-13 shot chart might make you assume that your screen has suddenly switched all colors to red.

But as a spark-plug guy who can go and get extra possessions by crashing the offensive boards and chasing down loose balls, Ebanks could fill a role with Dallas. Marion and Carter's days of dogged effort are long gone, and Nowitzki's contract probably forbids him from ever diving on the floor.

So Jae Crowder could use some help in the hustle department.

It might not sound like much, but Ebanks could inject some youthful energy into the Mavs frontcourt without taking shots away from the guys who need them. At the same time, he could learn plenty from Dallas' veteran core.

There are worse places for him to spend a season.


The Verdict

All three interested teams have something to offer Ebanks, but it seems like the Hawks make the most sense.

Rebounding is a real problem in Atlanta, and there's no doubt that Ebanks can provide help in that area. He might struggle to crack the rotation, but if he flashes some of the athleticism and length that helped him stick with the Lakers for three full seasons, he can steal a few minutes.

Atlanta it is.


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