Okay, I’m going to be honest. I know very little about Ivica Zubac. In the lead up to the draft I took a cursory look at the big man, but did not see him lasting to the Lakers’ selection at #32. After all, he was the #19 prospect in Draft Express’ top 100 and #25 on Chad Ford’s Big Board. There was a chance he’d be there, but I imagined some team with multiple first round picks (Celtics, 76ers) would take him and leave him in Europe to season a bit more.
But with the overall supply of big men being too big compared to the needs of the teams in the draft, Zubac was there at pick #32 and the Lakers snatched him up. So, what do we know about the young Croatian?
First, Zubac is only 19 years old. So he’s not a very experienced player and due to a meniscus injury and contractual issues this season, he did not play a full season in Europe. Second, he is BIG. He is listed at 7’1″, 265 pounds and has a 7’4″ wingspan. With these physical tools alone, he is an intriguing prospect who seems to project, at minimum, as a space eater who can be a presence in the paint on both ends.
His upside, per scouting reports, is on the offensive side of the ball. He’s said to have good hands and can finish with both hands with soft touch around the basket. He looks to move fairly well in the P&R as a roll man, offering a large target for entry passes and who, with his size, can set some solid screens. Athletically, however, he only looks average at this point, lacking explosion, especially in tight spaces. However, with his sheer size and standing reach, he looks as though he can still finish well enough — though with a head start or when already on the move his ability to do so above the rim improves greatly.
I have already mentioned some of his weaknesses, but what stands out in the tape I have seen is how the combination of his lack of plus athleticism and experience limit his ability to play up to his size at all times. Defensively he plays too upright which hurts him when trying to slide with offensive players on the perimeter (especially in the P&R). Playing upright also allows offensive players to get into his body too easily which leads to him being dislodged or knocked off his spot.
You can also see how his lack of explosiveness limits his offensive ability, especially when finishing in tight spaces with similarly sized players defending him. Better athletes also have the ability to challenge his shots, especially when rotating towards him from the weakside. We will see if, with age, he can refine his craftiness and better leverage his size, but he’ll need to be able to do so at the next level to reach his potential on that end.
With more playing time and the experience which comes with it, the hope would be that his technique and awareness on defense will improve. You would also hope that, as he ages and gets into the Lakers’ strength and conditioning program, he will improve his physicality and learn to better use his large frame. With better fundamentals and a stronger body (remember, he’s only 19), he will be harder to move when anchoring and can leverage his length and natural size to his advantage.
Overall, I do like this pick. Per pre-draft rankings, this kid is fairly well thought of. He has very good physical tools and also plays a position of need. He shows some qualities that cannot be taught — good hands, good footwork, and a good feel for offensive basketball. The hope is that the things he currently struggles with will improve with age and experience, better training, and good coaching.
Per Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, Zubac will come over this year and not stay in Europe, so his development clock under the Lakers’ watch can begin right away. I’m tentatively excited to see how that process goes.
Reportedly, Zubac fell into the 2nd round because he refused to a draft-and-stash deal with several teams.
Only time will tell if Zubac will pan out (especially considering that he’s only 19). But when you consider that Draft Express projected him to go late in the 1st round (at #27) and NBAdraft.net projected him as the #16 pick, then the Lakers probably made the right choice in drafting him at the #32 position when they found that he was still available.
In any event, with these two recent draft picks, this current version of the Lakers will be VERY young indeed. Below is a list of the players whom I expect the Lakers to retain this season and their ages as of January 1, 2017 ( I have not included Nick Young, Robert Sacre, or Ryan Kelly):
Marcello Huertas — 33
Lou Williams — 30
Jordan Clarkson — 24
Anthony Brown — 24
Larry Nance, Jr. — 24
Julius Randle — 22
D’Angelo Russell — 20
Ivica Zubac — 19
Brandon Ingram — 19
Average Age: 23.9 years of age
Of course, free agency will affect this. But as of now, the Lakers are young. And I mean, young.
well, T’was a great day indeed. Having B. Ingram at second is by far the best move of the Lakers and with all the questionable picks in the first round.
I kinda bit intriguid on why they pick Ivica (im not a fan nor i did not no about this guy) with the scouts having these tools he has. 7’1 ft. 260lbs 7’4 reach with offensive tools , i bet this guy is a monster with polishing and work to do this off season with other guys, but I was also disapointed not having Aj Hammons. He is also a good pick and we had the chance but I hope this pick will be a good one. Hammons also has a Lottery pick talent though. Well I guess GM knows his pick ( maybe he also scouted Ivica when he also scouted Bender according to the news in BR)
Sly Bly says
I am not crazy about this pick. I think there were a lot of guys who would have fit the new style better. Malcolm Brogdon would have been a great 3 and D guy that can play the PG or wing. he was ACC player of the year AND defensive player of the year. First time that has EVER happened in the ACC that had guys like MJ, CP3 and Tim Duncan. Another great pick would have been Demetrius Jackson, a great P&R point guard that projects to have elite defensive skills. There were also several centers that fit the bill as a 7 ft shot blocking center with mobility. I love the Ingram pick but I am scratching my head at how this guy fits into Luke’s style of play!
No Tarik Black? Bass also said he was open to a return and is a great locker room guy with all these kids. Wouldn’t they want one it both back since only current center is a rookie and even if they sign a very good free agent big, they will need another vet?
You’re right. My apologies. I meant to include Tarik Black (who is now 25) but I forgot. I don’t think we’ll be able to retain Brandon Bass (whom I like a lot). But we’ll see.
A Horse With No Name says
All along, the likelihood of drafting a center with 32nd pick was high, given the center depth in this draft. I did not expect Zubac, however,to fall to the second round. If Mid-W is correct, Zubac’s refusal to do a draft and stash deal created the opportunity for the lakers to snatch a first round talent for a position of need. He runs the floor well, has a well developed post game, great touch around the basket, and good fluid movement. He isn’t quick, but he isn’t slow either. I’m not concerned about his apparent lack of explosiveness because he is immense; he will be able to cover a lot of ground with his height and wingspan. I’m impressed with his resolve to come to the NBA right away. I’ve never been a fan of parking Euros to develop; European basketball culture is very different from American basketball culture, and I think the NBA player development is superior with its emphasis on nutrition and cutting edge training. Zubac will make greater gains more quickly working with the lakers. His apparent happiness at being drafted by the lakers is really endearing, I think laker fans are going to love this big kid.
I’m wondering if most of the footage of zubac playing in Europe is against older players, grown men, it’s noted that he played very good in the under 19 tournament. He probly would have dominated at an American College. injuries are a concern, but if he stays healthy he could be a future starter.
Gotta give it up to the magic, gutsy trade for ibaka. They needed a veteran. Not another youngster.
Confused about thon maker, did they say he might be as old as 24
Glad to see the lakers make no trades.
The Dane says
This guy is amazing. I love him already! That interview after the draft is wonderful, just wanted the Lakers.
Croatian players are tough #¤%%¤#”-holes. Everything is about basketball over there!
The Dane says
Zubac is not some project from nowhere, he has had a very good basketball-education and grew up working towards this. I hope he will be out Steven Adams.
The Lakers have used their basketball I Q’s to find a center with potential not problems being a good citizen. Hard work patience and good training can overcome natural ability. Can he be better than Robert Sacre the Lakers have to continually upgrade this team. The Lakers have to begin now with his training and bring in some help to train Zubac like Jabbar or O’Neal if the Lakers have long term plans for him.
Wow i totally missed the mess boogies queens just made at draft night…trading down just to take a secound rounder in the middle of the first round plus a center…..i think this guy could become available in the next couple of days, and for a cheap price as well…
Regarding our draft night: it couldnt have went any better….we got what we needed and stole a solid big with #32…our history of great drafts continues 🙂 couldnt be happier and cant wait for the start of next season!
From the other thread:”My concern has more to do with our foreign scouting. From Slava Medvedenko to Sasha Vujacic we have made bad decisions. Marc Gasol was a great player but we freakin’ traded him to get his brother.” Yeah those Lakers and their wacky trades that bring championships. What the hell where they thinking?
Dang! I like this kid. 7’1″ at 19 and doesn’t look like a wiener on toothpicks. The vid was great and he already speaks English which will greatly help his transition. Granted the vid only shows highlites, but I see no awkwardness in his movement, unlike other starting veteran big men I’ve seen night in, night out. Can’t wait to see him in the summer league in a few weeks.
Remember Mitch’s credo:. You pick the best available player when your pick comes, not based on need.
I like this pick. The fact we could use another center is just gravy. Sure, he’s young and will likely need some time to make any impact, but it’s not like this team is one player away from winning a chip. This is a good move. Keeping him on the roster also means more cash freed for free agency.
I loved our draft day. Not sure that it could have gone any better to be honest. This team could contend within a few years. I hope that the journey from now to then is as good as it was in the Kobe/Shaq era and Kobe/Gasol era.
Average Age: 23.9 years of age
Of course, free agency will affect this. But as of now, the Lakers are young. And I mean, young.
Great draft. I have pounded on the FO for their poor decisions these past few years — but Mitch has drafted well. And building the foundation of the next championship team was always better done through the draft than swinging for the fences with elite and older free agents these past summers.
We’ll likely stay young as I’m not sold on the Lakers being a real draw in free agency this summer. Of course we will try but the reality is that front line players want to jump into a situation where the current team is already competing. We’re not that yet. Walk, crawl then run.
I’m OK with that, the Lakers will be better this year, the fans will be engaged and the team will actually want/try to win every game. Those are things that we couldn’t say with certainty these last few years.
I’d rather go young and spend our cash next summer after we know what we really have and what we need. Right now we’re somewhat in the dark and the talent that will be available on the open market is going to be very expensive. Fill in around the edges, save the cash and roll with the kids.
david h says
Hey Darius: totally agree that Zubac has that likability factor; smiles, courteous and respectful all at the same time during that interview with Mike Trudeau last night.
Still mulling over the news the other day that both Clarkson and Randle will not be participating in summer league play. Hope they change their minds because not sure how much value one gets playing horse, pig and around the world with their homies. It’s not like they both played two full nba seasons or deep into any playoffs in their young careers. They are both closer to being rookies than hardened veterans. To me the organization will look to them to help set the example and at least show their faces at summer league. Who knows, maybe get into a scrimmage or two mixing it up with the two new additions. With Clarkson and Randle in the summer league fold; both will go a long ways in setting a precedence of chemistry with not only the new coaching staff but the two new rookies as well. I say, do it. Laker nation will be watching, for sure. Lastly, to be considered part of the core, be the core.
That’s my Friday’s two cents worth, Darius.
Baylor Fan says
It is hard to see how this draft could have worked out better. The Lakers two biggest needs were filled. Steven Adams showed that big men are not dinosaurs in the NBA. Since the Lakers are finally in rebuilding mode, they could afford to take one that needs a year or two before he will make significant contributions.
I think the Ibaka trade means that KD is staying. Ibaka’s role was to provide the defense, rebounding and shot blocking needed to drive the KD/Westbrook offensive engine. But just like Harden and Jackson, Serge felt he should have a larger offensive role. Look at his stats these last three years – Ibaka stopped being focused on his defensive skills and more focused on playing on the perimeter. Look at the increase of his 3pt shots.
The trade was a steal for OKC. Sabonis has more upside than Ibaka on his own and with Adams’ progress, as a real presence at center, gives the youngster time to find his sea legs. Ibaka becomes a free agent next summer and he’ll be very expensive. Oladipo is a much better version of Dion Walters, who will likely leave in free agency.
Sacramento is a mess and a large part of that is because of Cousin’s immaturity. Cousins’ sees himself as a stretch Four so the organization is looking for a center to team with him — ergo the Greek kid being drafted.
NBA insiders say that Sacramento will not trade Cousins as he is a star that they could never attract on their own via free agency. Cousins is paid well below his market price so he is not a drag on their cap. The Kings should be doing their best to integrate talent around him before his current deal expires in the Summer of 2018. Their problem is that they have a meddling owner and a poor FO.
Like a bad parent the organization has catered to the spoiled Boogie — enabling him and his taciturn behavior.
OKC, I would think, might be interested in Brandon Bass. The 4 position is obviously a position of need for them now. I expect Bass to cash in on a nice pay day sometime in the next 3-4 weeks.
Still mulling over the news the other day that both Clarkson and Randle will not be participating in summer league play.
Third year players rarely play in the summer league. Mostly for rookies and 2nd year players. Non-issue.
I like Sabonis, I think he is going to be a good player. OKC definitely got a steal.
I believe Ibaka may never return to the form he was when he was NBA blocks leader. He has had some injuries and I believe this is why he is declining. He looked a step slow last season and couldn’t rotate quick enough to contest shots. For Orlando’s sake, they better hope its just him wanting to focus on offense and not a physical issue.
Players from former Jugoslavia are in general smart, gritty, tehcnically gifted, tough and more experienced than their coeds.
I would always have in my team at least one player coming from there…
The youngsters endearing. Never heard a kid admit that he was rooting not to be picked, so that his favorite team could pick him up. I’m rooting for him selfishly because I’d like him to help the team, but I’m also rooting for him so that his fairy tail continues unabated.
Its hard to judge his competition in highlights, but he has some clear upsides and obvious deficits (transition speed, hops). Whatever… let’s go Zubac!!
It sounds like Zubac is coming here to compete for a job and I like that a lot better than a draft and stash scenario. (Do those ever work out anyway?)
Let’s see what the young man’s got!
John Citizen says
i Like Zubac although knew nothing about him before hand. I think he have great skills for a 19 yo and most of his weaknesses are fixable. He is not the Rudy Gobert mold neither the Rudy Gobert mold players ever gonna have skills like this kid, I think at 19 he is better offensively and mobility than M Gasol at 19.
I hope the Lakers will seriously develop this guy into a very good center. He certainly have the skills and the right attitude. Did i mention that i like him.