When fans throughout the world embarked on a journey to Las Vegas earlier this month, a lot of their excitement centered on watching newly minted rookies in Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett. At least in terms of those players, the on-court action was a lot cooler than the steamy early July atmosphere in the Sin City. Zion was sidelined for the event after one earthquake-shortened game while Barrett struggled with efficiency until his final game against the Wizards.
Although some of the more well-known players underperformed or simply didn’t play during Summer League, there were some underlooked prospects that stood out. Last week, we took a look at five undrafted guys that impressed to the point where some actually ended the event with actual NBA contracts.
One of those players was UNC Wilmington alum Devontae Cacok, who put up 11.8 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals per game on 62% from the field during his five games with the Lakers Summer League squad. That performance solidified his temporary position within that organization as he’ll enter training camp with an Exhibit 10 contract. With that contract, he’ll have an opportunity to make up to $50,000 alongside a standard G League deal if he spends up to sixty days with South Bay after getting waived by Los Angeles in training camp.
Looking away from his excellent play in Summer League, South Bay fans should be confident about what he can do on the G League level. That optimism comes from how fantastic Cacok was during his four-year career with UNC Wilmington. The best example of that came from his final year with the school where he shined as a double-double threat by putting up 15.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game with a 59% True Shooting Percentage. His fantastic play pushed the CAA (Coastal Athletic Association) to name to both their All-First Team and All-Defensive Team.
The young 6’7 forward was able to carry over that tremendous play over to this year’s Portsmouth Invitational, where he stood out as one of the best players in that event. In three games, he shined by averaging 15 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 57% from the field. Those numbers unsurprisingly pushed Cacok to have a spot on the Portsmouth Invitational’s All-Tournament Team.
No matter the event, whether it’s Summer League, Portsmouth or even a full college season, Cacok has been consistently able to mix gaudy per game numbers with dependable efficiency. How has he been able to do that? Well, a lot of that is due to Cacok using his four-year college career to master an offensive arsenal that’s simple but yet extremely effective.
As might’ve been evident from looking at his per game numbers, the former UNC Wilmington forward has stood out as a fantastic rebounder. A lot of that comes from the offensive end as he snagged four offensive boards per game, which placed him third in the entire NCAA. Those gaudy numbers come from how he was able to utilize the combination of a sturdy 240 pound frame and Cacok just having the knowledge to know where the ball is going to go after it bounces off the rim. An example of that is seen in the clip below where the standout is able to use his durable frame to outmuscle the opposing player. After establishing his dominance, the UNC Wilmington great starts to get in position to snag the rebound before the ball even careens off the rim.
While it isn’t shown in that video, Cacok regularly does an excellent job of knowing what to do after snagging the offensive rebound. If he’s around the rim without two opposing bigs crowding him, he’s able to finish with a strong putback dunk. However, if the crowd is by him, he has the awareness to go out and pass the ball out to one of his teammates. While it may not seem like much, that heads-up approach can be huge for a team over the course of a game as second chance points can mean the difference between victory or defeat.
Another way that he’s able to shine inside the paint is through working magic in the low-post on either the left or right block. In either area, Cacok exhibits confidence with how he’s able to footwork to create separation from his opponent and get a better look at the rim. That footwork is also beneficial when he’s deciding to score from that angle by being able to put up hook shots, position his feet forward to take a mid-range attempt, or take a fadeaway jumper. That fadeaway is seen in the clip below as he uses a little spin move on the right block to get some separation before putting up a pretty jumper.
Outside from posting up, offensive rebounding and being an off-ball target, Cacok is pretty raw in other aspects of this side of the court. For one, he only showed occasional glimpses of a mid-range jumper during his run with the team. In those glances, you definitely have reasons to be optimistic as the actual shooting stroke is pretty smooth and has range that spread a few feet behind the free-throw line.
Another area that the UNC Wilmington alum was able to establish himself at in college was as a facilitator as the 6’7 forward only had 21 total assists as a senior. However, he might be progressing in that area as we noted in a piece last week that he threw some pretty nice passes to Lakers Summer League teammate Dakota Mathias.
Although the header of Cacok’s basketball resume hypes up his work as a double-double offensive threat, the 6’7 forward definitely isn’t a slouch on the defensive end. That statement may surprise if you just base things off his base numbers as he only averaged .9 steals and .7 blocks per game as a senior. However, his good work on that end of the court as the UNC Wilmington alum stands as a pretty versatile defender.
For one, he was more than willing to go out and guard the perimeter, whether that came through hedging on pick-and-rolls or just switching onto guards. While the quality of guards in the CAA might not be the highest, it was definitely impressive to see the 6’7, 240 pound forward being able to utilize his frame and quick feet to prevent the opposing player from getting a clean shot or drive to the rim.
Cacok’s quick feet has also allowed him to be a pretty solid help defender as he can expeditiously get to a certain area on the court in an attempt in assisting to make a stop. That knack is seen in the clip below as he’s able to stick with the wing cutting to the paint before laying down a big block at the rim.
While he’s definitely not the most exciting player, Cacok has established himself as a smart forward that can be relied upon to grab a bunch of rebounds, make off-ball cuts, play hard on defense and create magic in the low-post. Those ingredients allowed him to be one of the finest mid-major forwards and land an Exhibit 10 deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. To push that current plateau, the 6’7 forward will need to use his time with the South Bay Lakers to continue progressing as a shooter and show more of his work as a facilitator.
Will he be able to do that and eventually land a guaranteed NBA deal after the 2019-20 season opens? We’ll have to wait and see. However, it’s clear that Devontae Cacok is an incredibly solid all-around player that will be a fun player to keep an eye on when the G League season begins this November.