Ivica Zubac: Future Star For The Los Angeles Lakers?


Ivica Zubac may have been not very well known heading into the 2016 NBA Draft but he left his mark during NBA Summer League for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas gets bigger and better every year and this year’s version had everything a fan could ask for. Non-stop games, a head-to-head matchup of the top two picks, amazing buzzer-beaters, an overtime championship game…and the introduction of Ivica Zubac.

Zubac is 19 years old, towers over opponents with a 7’1″, 265-pound frame and was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Prior to Summer League, that’s about all most people knew of him. But after a week and a half in Vegas, Lakers fans are now wondering if they hit the jackpot.

Zubac has garnered high praise and comparisons in a very short period of time with his outstanding play. He averaged 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting nearly 82 percent from the line and better than 64 percent from the field.

Granted, it is Summer League and he was not exactly facing the likes of DeMarcus Cousins out there, but the praise from his new teammates is saying it all.

A Marc Gasol comparison is high praise indeed and perhaps appropriate. Remember, Gasol was a second round draft pick by the Lakers in the 2007 NBA Draft. The parallels between the players don’t just end with their draft selections though.

Take a look at this clip and watch how smooth Zubac is in rolling to the basket on the pick and roll. He displays great hands and the ability to finish strong.

A second clip from the same game shows Zubac pulling down one of a handful of offensive rebounds. Notice how when he rebounds the ball he naturally keeps the ball high and immediately flows into a putback for the score.

One of the most impressive abilities Zubac displayed at Summer League was his shot-blocking ability. He put on a display against the Jazz, swatting six shots.

Zubac showed both the ability to be positioned properly on defense and have the instinct and timing to rotate over for the help side block. He displays very high level skills for a 19-year-old.

Ivica Zubac is more than just a 10-day superstar endearing himself to the Lakers fanbase, earning cool nicknames like Zublocka and taking up the craze of Pokemon Go. Zubac ranked first in rebounds with 103 and blocks with 24 in the 2015 U-18 European-A Championships.

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He also led all players with 55 field goals in the 2015 U-19 World Championships, where he led Croatia to a silver medal scoring 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds in only 26.6 minutes per game.

As a point of comparison, a 19-year-old Marc Gasol averaged less than two points and two rebounds per game, struggling to get even seven minutes a game for FC Barcelona. Even at 23 years old in his final year before coming to the NBA, Gasol was posting 16 and 8 but doing so in over 33 minutes per game. At 19, Zubac seems well ahead of the curve.

So how did such a tantalizing prospect fall to the second round? Zubac does have an injury history. He suffered a stress fracture in 2014 and missed time last season with a knee injury. There are also reports that he had no interest in being a draft-and-stash player and clearly that scared teams off.

The Lakers’ search for their next great big man got off to a laughable start this summer when they lavished a $64 million contract to Timofey Mozgov, but it looks like they may have found themselves the steal of the draft in round two with Zubac.

More hoops habit: New York Knicks: 2016 Offseason Grades

With a few years of seasoning if he does turn into Marc Gasol 2.0, the Lakers could be a very scary team with Zublocka dominating the middle alongside D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle.