Los Angeles Lakers: Why the team needs to develop Devontae Cacok

The Los Angeles Lakers have done a great job finding under the radar prospects in recent years and Devontae Cacok may be their most recent find.

One would think that the big man depth for the Los Angeles Lakers is all squared away with Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard. However, there is potential for a crack in the armor given Howard’s age and past injury history, which could prompt the Lakers to find a plan B for him.

Enter rookie F/C Devontae Cacok, whom the Lakers signed to their G League roster after the four-year big man out of UNC Wilmington went undrafted earlier this year.

Cacok made an impressive showing during Summer League and continued that play into the preseason where he displayed a high energy style of play that could greatly benefit the Lakers this year and as such, could earn a spot in the rotation.

Even with Howard, McGee, and Davis occupying most of the big man minutes, having Cacok in the wings would help shore up the rotation and will mitigate the team having to go to players like Jared Dudley.

Obviously, Cacok is a rookie and will be prone to rookie mistakes, but the potential is there. He’s an athletic, springy big man who is versatile enough to play as both a power forward or a small-ball center. His comp would be the Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, who also entered the league as an undersized, athletic big man who was more of an energy player than anything else.

Even though Cacok is as raw as they come and is already a 23-year-old rookie and there is a lot of things to like about his game. The Lakers will be looking to run the floor a lot this year, and a player like Cacok fits that style perfectly. His pick and roll game is also pretty impressive for a rookie, and he even flashed a passing game that makes him an intriguing player if he can put it all together.

His free throw shooting leaves a lot to be desired, as he only shot 55.5% in the preseason and his fouling is also an issue, but these things can be improved over time.

Another reason for the team to make an effort at getting Cacok minutes is that it’s important to have young talent in the development pipeline.

This applies not only to Cacok but also Zach Norvell Jr. and even Kostas Antetokounmpo. It’s how teams like the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors were able to build a championship contender. Yes, they had the superstar talent, but they were also able to find young talent and develop them into rotation players.

This doesn’t mean that Cacok, Norvell or Antetokounmpo will unequivocally be major pieces to future Laker playoff runs, but you at least have to take the chance on these types of players, as their development now, could pay dividends later.

With the big man rotation full at the moment, the best course of action for Cacok is the one he’s currently taking, spending time with the South Bay Lakers, the team’s G-League affiliate and slowly but surely get his NBA legs under him.

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It’s the same development path that players such as Jordan Clarkson, Thomas Bryant, Alex Caruso, and Ivica Zubac have taken in the past, and now all of them are seeing steady minutes with NBA rosters.