When NBA training camps were coming to a close, Devontae Cacok sure was making it difficult for the Los Angeles Lakers to cut him.
Cacok had a very solid showing for the Lakers in the Las Vegas Summer League, and he carried that over to the preseason. In six games, he put up 10.2 points per game on 60.5 percent shooting from the field and 5.2 rebounds.
But alas, he was caught in a numbers game and with Dwight Howard having an impressive preseason himself, Cacok was one of the Lakers final roster casualties before the season opener.
He signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Lakers which allowed him to join their G League affiliate in South Bay, and he most recently signed a two-way contract with them. His contract allows him to spend a maximum of 45 days with the Lakers while spending the rest of the season in the G League.
Throughout the first 12 games of the G League season, he’s emerged as a dependable reserve for South Bay. The intensity and energy he plays with have helped spark runs for the team when he comes into the game. He was able to learn a lot from playing in Summer League and with the Lakers in preseason.
“Summer league was a big experience for me, kind of just learning the game going from college to the NBA basically. It’s the pace,” Cacok told Ridiculous Upside. “I learned a lot from playing hard and doing what I did in college and bringing it to the NBA. I wanted to show that to everybody.”
Cacok is a bit undersized for a big man in the NBA, he stands at 6-foot-7, but he certainly makes up for it with his intensity and energy he brings on a nightly basis. His knack for rebounding and defense was something that was evident when he was in college.
At UNC Wilmington, Cacok averaged nearly 10 rebounds a game (9.8) as a sophomore during the 2015-16 season, and he led the CAA in double-doubles that year with 11. He was also named the CAA Defensive Player of the Year. He upped that to 13.8 rebounds as a junior, which was good enough for best in the nation for the NCAA Division 1.
Last season, Jemerrio Jones was able to earn a call-up to the Lakers by playing defense, rebounding, and bringing a ton of energy. It appears as if Cacok was able to do the same by doing the exact same things. It’s the little things that don’t always involve scoring that he prides himself on.
“I feel like it’s just good for me to be out here and show consistency in what I do. Every night, that’s what I try to do for any team that’s out there watching,” Cacok said. “I want to show that I’m a hard worker, that I always give everything I have, and I can play within a system.”
Cacok’s rebounding has carried over so far at the pro level, he’s currently averaging 11.8 per game. And being to crash the glass has helped make him an efficient scorer as well. He doesn’t shoot much from outside the paint, but his strength on the offensive glass helps him keep possessions alive for his team and get easy put-backs around the rim.
Being on a two-way contract now, he’ll probably end up spending some time with the Lakers at some point, but he’ll most likely stay with South Bay the majority of the season. The contract he signed was for two years, so if anything, he gives the Lakers a solid young prospect to develop. Regardless, he’s confident in what he can bring to the Lakers or any NBA team.
“I feel like can bring a lot of energy, playing in transition, rebounding, and toughness. All of those things are what I bring to the table,” Cacok said. “I try to show it every day, no matter where I’m at, no matter who I’m playing with or against, I try to be consistent and show what I bring on the court.”
Each year, the G League has been growing in terms of the level of competition and the overall talent in the league. For many years, the NBA’s development league was seen as being inferior to overseas leagues. While the pay still isn’t on par with other countries, more players are starting to see the talent level as being on par with any league not named the NBA.
Having experienced the league for the first time, Cacok has been impressed with that he’s seen. Many of the guys in the league he played against in college and had workouts against during the NBA’s pre-draft process. He knows the talent of those players already so seeing them in the G League assures him that the competition is top-notch.
“It’s good, very good competition. There’s a lot of good players, a lot of good scorers, good rebounders,” Cacok said. “Being able to see some of the guys in the G League that I played with, did some of my pre-draft with, it’s been a great experience to see how talented the G League is.”
With more and more NBA teams using the G League; nearly everyone has their own affiliate now, and being able to monitor and scout player progression, they have a wide pool to choose from when looking for potential roster fits.
Although he’s only spent about a month so far in the G League, Cacok believes it to be a good place for players hoping to reach the NBA one day. After all, it worked out for him.
“Yeah, I feel like the G League is a very good opportunity to get that look. It’s connected straight to the NBA, so a lot of people can see a lot of different players at a lot of different times,” Cacok said. “It’s just very good and accessible for teams to find whatever players they may be looking for. It’s a good opportunity for anybody to get that call-up.”