Monday, April 12, 2010

Devin Ebanks Writeup

Devin Ebanks - So. SF/PF, West Virginia

Per36min numbers against Quality Opponents (27 games):
12.2 pts, 8.6 rebs, 2.7 asts, 1.1 stls, 0.5 blks, 1.7 PFs, 2.3 TOs
47.2 FG%, 15.8 3pt% (3/19), 76.2 FT%, .55 FTA/FGA

Devin Ebanks may be the consummate role player at the SF spot. He plays with energy on both ends, he crashes the boards, he is unselfish and moves the ball well, he is an outstanding man defender and great team defender, he can score efficiently from within 15 feet, and he can knock his FTs down.

At 6’8, 210lbs Ebanks is not a physically imposing player. However, even though he only has above average length and athleticism in NBA terms, he is a menace on the defensive end and can play in the paint as well as well as check the opposing team’s most talented offensive player. While he doesn’t posses great straight-line speed with the ball in his hands, he is fast moving without the ball. Even though he only has mediocre leaping ability, he is efficient finishing inside and does a great job challenging shots. Even though his lateral quickness isn’t elite, he understands positioning defensively to cut off lanes and stay in front of his man. Honestly, his biggest advantage athletically over his SF competition may be that he never appears to tire, especially on the defensive end.

Offensively, Ebanks has learned to play within himself and because of that his efficiency has risen. Some may point to the season-long numbers and claim they haven’t improved from 2008-09, however his last 15 or 20 games he stopped taking the long jumpers which are currently his bane, and stopped forcing the issue. This has led to a substantial increase in his efficiency to where he’s rose from the bottom of the SF pack in terms of offensive efficiency to the middle at 0.91 PPP - impressive considering he doesn’t currently have a reliable 3pt shot in his arsenal.

A common misconception about Devin is that he can’t shoot. While he has the worst 3pt% out of all the players in my database who attempt more than 0.5 3’s a game, he has one of the more effective midrange shots in the current SF crop - something I expect to be backed up when DraftExpress does their annual SynergySports write-ups. Nevertheless, even with the good midrange shot, his lack of a 3pt shot is his biggest detraction as a prospect and it’s something which I had hoped to see him improve upon from his freshman season. Extending the range on his jumper needs to be his primary objective, as because he is only reliable out to 15 feet, the value of his other offensive skills lessens as neither the ability to space the floor nor the threat of a jumper when he’s on the perimeter are there.

However, even with the struggles with his range, those other offensive skills are what make him a good role player prospect offensively. I’ll first touch on his passing, court vision, and decision-making. Some may point to the lack of awareness of the dwindling game clock against Villanova, or the 8 TOs against Washington and claim I have no clue what I’m talking about. Yes, those are two recent events which are blemishes, however, if you take a look at his season as a whole, and then realize that every player has made mistakes which are egregious this season; you realize they aren’t the norm for Devin. He boasts the 3rd best A:TO ratio among Forwards while netting the 4th most assists, and has, along with teammate Da’Sean Butler, spent time substantial playing point forward for WVU. When he gets the ball on the wing, he looks to create for teammates first and himself second. While he’s not a flashy passer like Hobson, he makes the simple passes and sees open teammates much better than your normal SF prospect.

Another offensive strength is his motion within the offense which can probably attributed to the type of offense Huggins likes to play. Nonetheless, Ebanks will be seen cutting to the rim, setting or coming off screens, or going into the high-post to help break a zone or draw in defenders so that teammates can get open perimeter shots. Whether it comes naturally to Ebanks, or it was ingrained into his style by Huggins, the fact that he is rarely ever stationary in the corner waiting for a pass for a full possession is going to be a nice asset for some NBA team - and it’s something that a lot of players have trouble with when the ball is not in their hands.

Like most prospects, he has his weaknesses. Most of his stem from being a mediocre at best ball handler who picks up his dribble far too easily when pressured by the defense. This limits his effectiveness driving the ball from the hoop, and also his ability to give his team another quality option bringing the ball up the floor. As far as his point forward skills are concerned, to make the transition to the NBA level his point forward abilities that he showed at WVU, he’ll need to work on his handle with both hands and become quicker with the ball.

Another weakness is the refinement in his post-up game, mainly due to his lack of strength. When he gets the ball in the post, whether from a post-entry pass or from an offensive rebound, he shows ability to convert when he has position; however when he’s left to create something for himself, he’ll frequently rely on a step back fadeaway or attempt to spin around his opponent as he doesn’t seem to have reliable touch on a hook shot or an up and under. I don’t know if this is something which needs immediate attention because he appears to be more of a mid-range guy, but it’s a weakness nonetheless.

Moving away from scoring and playmaking skills, Ebanks is one of the better rebounders. He’s in that second tier of offensive rebounders at the SF spot behind Aminu, though defensively he’s not quite as strong as he spends a lot of his time guarding the other team’s top perimeter threat or being the point man when WVU goes zone. However, he shows good fundamentals boxing his man out even though he is relatively light for a SF, and multiple times a game he will just outwork or outsmart the opposing team to get a rebound. This hustling will translate well to the NBA level because of his height and deceptive agility, but the fundamentals may not, as he will certainly need to add strength in order to continue to box out players like he does.

By far his biggest asset as a prospect is his defensive ability. I’ll start off with his man defense, where Ebanks has guarded, and done a significantly better job than his teammates in doing so, a variety of top college players such as Scottie Reynolds, Evan Turner, and even bigs like Greg Monroe. Something ESPN posted shortly after the Villanova game was that on 37 possessions Ebanks guarded Reynolds, he had 4 points, 1-5 FG, and 4 TOs; whereas on the other 27 possessions WVU players guarded Reynolds, he had 17 points, 4-5 FG, and 0 TOs. This was a similar situation to when Ebanks was put onto Turner in the second half of the OSU game and he proceeded to go quiet after having a monster first half against the WVU zone.

Simply put, he doesn’t let his lack of elite physical tools get in the way of being an elite defender. He actively uses his arms to both shut off potential passing lanes and also help funnel his man away from where he wants to go and into the part of the WVU defense which can help. He doesn’t go for blocks, but rather is an effective defender and harasses them into lower percentage shots by getting a hand up near their face and sticking close by them to not give them any room - without fouling might I add. Those who say Ebanks has not made any progress this season from last will point to the steal and block numbers to say he hasn’t made improvements defensively, but as I have explained, this is far from the case.

When it comes to team defense, the responsibility Huggins routinely gives Ebanks by putting him at the point of their 1-3-1 zone to help disrupt the opposing offenses and help trap ball-handlers in the corner. This can also be seen in the intelligent rotations he makes off his man assignments to give help in the post, or in the way he jumps passing lanes to create fast-break opportunities for himself and his teammates. Pretty much, Ebanks is the total package defensively, and will be able to spend time guarding the 1-4 spots in the pros.

Overall, while it may have been a disappointment in terms of his scoring output this season, Ebanks has been simply amazing in how effective he’s been defensively. Taking a backseat to Da’Sean Butler may not have been a bad thing for his development either, as he likely better understands what his future role will be, and may have lost the rumored attitude problems which had been there early in his college career. So while some may be wary of taking a prospect who may never be more than a 4th option offensively in the NBA, I believe his defensive ability, role-player skills, and intangibles make him a good prospect in the late-lottery or mid-first and currently have him slotted 11th on my board.

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