Can Devin Ebanks Lessen the Lakers' Need for Tracy McGrady?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 21, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 03:  Devin Ebanks #3 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks on while taking on the Duke Blue Devils during the National Semifinal game of the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 3, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I rarely put much faith into the false tidings of NBA summer league play, but in the case of Los Angeles Lakers' draft pick Devin Ebanks, I was pleasantly surprised in some aspects of his game.

Most observers feel the Lakers got a steal when Ebanks fell to the latter part of this year's second round, but most of his value was seen in his defensive abilities.

But Ebanks' 15 points per game scoring average and his 45 percent shooting from three point range suggests Ebanks may be more of an accomplished scorer than was once thought.

Granted the level of competition in summer league is far different from anything Ebanks will see during the regular season, but the progress in his offensive game may be a blessing in disguise for the Lakers.

With most of the NBA's attention focused on Tracy McGrady's impending free agency decision, Ebanks may represent a reprieve for the Lakers should they fall short in any attempts to land McGrady.

Ebanks can't match McGrady in the talent or experience category, but he has just as much size, is more athletic at this stage, and he may already be better defensively now than McGrady has ever been.

That last sentence is no exaggeration because Ebanks appears to have the fundamental defensive skills to contribute on that end immediately, and while McGrady is very versatile, defense has never been his calling card.

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The need for the offense McGrady could potentially provide is overstated, and Ebanks has shown an ability to get to the rim, which will only improve as his playing time increases.

Many Lakers' fans see McGrady as a major upgrade to the Lakers' bench, but that is only true if he stays healthy and is ready to compete, and that's not something anyone can be sure of until he plays.

There is no guarantee that McGrady would willingly accept a diminished role with the Lakers and that may be part of his reluctance to sign, especially since the Chicago Bulls are reportedly interested in obtaining his services.

Ebanks does not come with any of the primmadonna needs that follow most of today's superstars, and the fact Los Angeles will get to mold him as a player may have certain advantages of their own over McGrady.

McGrady's overtures to Chicago suggests he may still entertain thoughts of being a starter and major factor on the team, but the Lakers may not need him to be a primary player.

Of course, Los Angeles would welcome McGrady's playmaking ability, and his skill in attacking the rim, but the leadership roles on the team have already been established.

Ebanks is only a rookie, and Lakers' coach Phil Jackson is notorious in his disdain for first-year players, but the biggest way to make an impression is on the defensive end, and Ebanks has shown he can do that.

McGrady may bring name recognition and the reputation as a scorer to the Lakers' roster, but Los Angeles may have already found their forward of the future in Ebanks, if they have the patience to develop him.