Ivica Zubac was probably not a name heard much.
The center out of Croatia was a good international prospect, even listed on some mock drafts going in the mid first round. Even then, no one knew much about his game. Most international prospects picked in the first-round, however, tend to play overseas for a couple of seasons to mature, then jump right back into the NBA. This wasn’t Ivica Zubac’s plan. He wanted to play in the NBA immediately. This made him slide in the draft and into the Lakers number 32 overall.
Ivica’s plan to immediately play in the NBA scared teams away, but not the Lakers. They saw something in the center that made them think he would be a good prospect. Of course, they had a draft position where it really wouldn’t be a “reach” to draft Zubac.
Nonetheless, the Lakers saw potential in this kid and it looks like it is paying off.
Ivica Zubac’s career was off to a promising start.
In his first summer league, Zubac impressed many Lakers fans, showing his sweet touch around the rim along with his ability to protect the rim. D’Angelo Russell even compared him to Marc Gasol, a big with a little bit of “sweetness” to his game. It was hard to argue against Russell’s comparison. Ivica Zubac did possess that smooth touch to his game that is very comparable to All-Star, Marc Gasol.
His rookie season, however, has been regular. Most late first-to-2nd round picks don’t play that much to begin with, often bouncing in and out of the D-League. This was the case for Zubac, but Luke Walton decided to change that story. Walton, the rookie head coach of the Lakers, decided to start playing the center more. The results have paid off. In games where Zubac has had twenty minutes or more of playing time, he has recorded a double-double. He is currently on a 2-game double-double streak. Not anything out of the ordinary, but solid especially for a kid that most NBA teams saw as a “project.”
It looks like Luke Walton will keep playing Zu more. It is also looking like the Lakers found yet another gem in the draft.
This isn’t the first time the Lakers found a gem outside of the lottery.
They have always paired up their lottery pick with another solid prospect in the late first-2nd rounds of the draft.
Three years ago in the 2014 NBA Draft, when Julius Randle was selected by LA, they also drafted Jordan Clarkson with the 46th overall pick (trade with Washington who drafted Clarkson on LA’s behalf). Clarkson has become a reliable scorer for the Lakers, earning consideration for Sixth Man of the Year honors this season.
In the 2015 NBA Draft where the Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers also picked up Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th overall pick. A pick that many questioned, it was viewed as a reach to take Nance that high in the draft. Since then, Larry has shown his high-energy, extremely athletic game that has Lakers fans and the rest of the NBA in awe.
Ivica Zubac is just another line to Lakers’ draft success. They have drafted potential All-Stars in Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell, but have also drafted complementary pieces like Clarkson, Nance, and Zubac.
The Lakers are trying to build a championship team. They definitely need All-Star type of players, but getting role players willing to play that role is just as important.
*Featured Photo credit: AP Photo/Ron Jenkins*