Realistic Expectations for LA Lakers Rookie Ivica Zubac in 2016-17

During the recently concluded Las Vegas Summer League, rookie big man Ivica Zubac surpassed all expectations.

The 19-year-old Croatian was the Los Angeles Lakers’ 32nd overall draft pick in June. However, he played like a borderline lottery selection this summer, averaging 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, starting every game and displaying a surprising comfort level and poise.

It wasn’t all peaches and cream—Zubac was the unfortunate recipient of a murderous dunk on his head, courtesy of Jerami Grant. Welcome to the NBA, tall teenager. 

Regardless of rites of passage that will live in online infamy forever, Zubac is a genuine draft steal. But he’ll have to do a lot more than excel in Las Vegas to earn a regular rotation spot under new Lakers coach Luke Walton.

After all, L.A. already has a traditional starting center in Timofey Mozgov, the hulking 7’1” Russian who signed a four-year, $64 million deal this summer. Walton can also use Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black as undersized 5s in small-ball lineups.

So where does that leave the 7’1” Zubac? The answer may lie in a level of offensive potential and versatility that L.A. has lacked in recent years.


Team Fit

A young talent on a young team, Zubac appears to be a terrific fit with the Lakers. A lifelong fan of the Purple and Gold, the neophyte expressed true joy on draft night.

“This is my dream come true,” Zubac said, per Joey Ramirez of the Lakers' official website. “I cannot believe this is happening because the Lakers were my No. 1 team since I started playing basketball. Kobe [Bryant] was my favorite player, so I’m so happy right now.”

Just like that, a fan favorite was born.

The young center didn’t get much playing time overseas last season with inju...

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