Ivica Zubac is a mystery to the common NBA fan. However, to many Los Angeles Lakers fans around the world, he has the potential to be the starting center for many years to come in the purple and gold.
The sample size for Zubac is relatively small, playing in only 38 games. Out of those 38, he started 11 of those and averaged 16 minutes a game during his rookie season. For getting so little time on the court, Zubac’s production was surprisingly good for a second-round pick. He was able to put up 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks a game.
Zubac’s stats picked up post all-star break, in which he averaged 10 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. As the season went on you were able to see his confidence level go up. Let us dive in to the aspects of his game that have fans believing he will be the next Lakers great big man.
Some encouraging news for Lakers fans emerged recently in the form of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has expressed interest in Zubac develop his post-game more this summer. This includes the talented hook shot that Zubac already has in his repertoire.
For only being 20 years old, the moves he was able to complete in the above video is sensational. He has great feet-work already and he show’s a great understanding of how to finish around the rim. The move he put on Nikola Jokic was fantastic. He was able to feel where Jokic was with his back to the basket, got Jokic in a bad defensive spot, and then rose up to his right side with a nice-looking hook shot.
Zubac is comfortable as well with running in transition and jamming it home with force on the break. He will have to add some strength to his body to be able to move players down with his post moves, but that will come with more experience and him getting older. Zubac’s conversion rate from inside 3 feet is at 60%, which is comparable to big men that have already been in the league for some time.
Being an international born player comes with its advantages. One of those advantages is that they typically prefer their big man to be able to shoot from 16 feet and beyond. This gives the team the ability to space the floor when their big man is on their court and it allows the offense to run more freely.
Around the 19 second mark, you are able to see his shooting stroke from beyond sixteen feet. It is a very fluid motion and he shoots it without zero hesitation. For the year on shots sixteen feet and beyond, he shot 57.1% which is better than talented big men such as Demarcus Cousins, Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis.
His ability to shoot from that long jumper will space the floor the Lakers for many years to come. Zubac will be a monster in the pick and pop play, and look for the Lakers to run those plays to get their man an easy look.
Let’s face it, there is a reason why this man earned his nickname as Zublocka. He is a 7 foot 1 big man who likes to swat away any hope that the offensive player has of making a basket.
His defensive IQ makes it seem like the Lakers got an absolute steal in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft. Watch how in many of the blocks above he only leaves his feet to jump straight up. He doesn’t lean in to the guy who has the ball, he just jumps straight up with his hands straight in the air. This is such a skill to already know at such a young age. His long arms definitely help his case here, and he may become the defensive anchor that the Lakers do desperately need.
One last bit of information on the talented Ivica Zubac. In 2015, he led the Croatian National Team to a silver medal in the FIBA U-19 World Championships. In the final game, he put up a solid 12 points and 13 rebound performance and also held his matchup of Harry Giles to shooting 20% on the floor.
Ivica Zubac has the talent to become the next great Laker center in a long list of many. In his short amount of play, he might have already shown more potential than other young Lakers players such as Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. The future looks good with this Croatian anchoring the team of the future.