When Ivica Zubac’s name was called at the 2016 NBA Draft, even hardcore hoops fans couldn’t have been blamed for wondering who the 19-year-old Croatian kid was, and whether or not he could play. After nearly a year with Zubac, it’s hard to imagine things having gone much better for him. Not only did he show himself to be a capable center already, but he did so much faster than even his own projections.
As he told us, playing for the team he loved as a kid, let alone starting 11 games, was an absolute dream. But how about averaging 16.8 points (52.9 percent field goals), 9.4 boards and 2.0 blocks with 1.8 assists per 36 minutes? While he needs to continue to work on his defensive versatility – chasing stretch bigs to the perimeter and switching out on guards – Zubac impressed in other areas.
He has an array of post moves with both good hands and soft touch, sets good screens, rolls hard and can protect the rim. He missed the last seven games of the season with a high ankle sprain, but was otherwise healthy. His personal highlight was a 25-point, 11-rebound performance at Denver in which he hit 12 of 15 shots.
By the Numbers
1: Rank amongst teammates, coaches, media members and fans for his personality (unofficially).
5: Zubac’s rank amongst rookies in rebounding, as he gobbled up 4.2 per game in just 16 minutes on average. He ranked 12th in scoring and second in blocks.
609: Minutes played by Zubac as a rookie, invaluable experience that could benefit the Lakers for years to come if his growth curve reflects his early playing time.
Zubac is already far ahead of even the most hopeful schedule the Lakers may have had when drafting him, but now want to be greedy. They’ll expect him to continue to work on his physique over the summer, but are lucky that he needs no outside motivation (Zubac led the team in most workouts completed at the facility throughout the season). He’ll also continue to hone his post moves and a skyhook in particular that he began working on at the team facility prior to his rookie year.