Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Devontae Cacok.
How did he play?
For someone that only got 98 minutes of playing time, pretty well. To be clear: it was never reasonable to expect Cacok to get meaningful minutes in the Lakers’ front court — that was true even before they signed Andre Drummond in March — but he was always going to get at least few opportunities to prove that he was an NBA player, and I’d argue he did.
His raw stats don’t jump off of the page, but the energy and effort does when he’s on the court. Defensively, he’s an absolute monster on the boards, as he showed in his rookie season with the South Bay Lakers, and he’s slowly getting better at defending players out on the perimeter, which is a must for a big man his size (6’8).
Offensively, he does most of his damage above the rim, but he also he has a soft touch and can drive to the basket when there’s an open lane. As a utility man, he has some value.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
The Lakers can make Cacok a restricted free agent by extending him a qualifying offer worth $1,669,178, but given the lack of opportunity he’s been given at the NBA level, it’s hard to imagine any team getting into a bidding war over him. If the Lakers rescinded his qualifying offer, and therefore his cap hold, they likely wouldn’t have a problem bringing him back.
Should he be back?
That depends on a few things. The first, and most important, in my opinion, is whether or not Montrezl Harrell exercises his $9.72 million player option. Obviously Cacok is not a like-for-like Harrell replacement, but their size and skill sets are similar enough for it to be awkward for them to both be on the roster. Cacok’s the cheaper option, but the gap in talent between him and Harrell is still substantial.
Then there’s the draft. I think the general expectation is that the Lakers are going to take a wing that can knock down 3-pointers at an efficient rate, but they could also draft a center after seemingly being unsatisfied with the options they had available last season. If that ends up being the case, Cacok is likely gone.
In either case, the best thing for Cacok’s development is probably for him to leave Los Angeles. As much as he’s improved since signing his two-way in 2019, there’s still no path to playing time for him on a team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and, presumably, Marc Gasol. He may be really good one day, but the Lakers can almost definitely get an immediate upgrade in talent this summer.
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