Over the last three games, Los Angeles Lakers rookie center Ivica Zubac has seen a major increase in his role on the team. He has averaged 25 minutes per night and raised his career high scoring night each game.
Zubac’s excellent play has also saw him finish games as his scoring, rebounding, and screen setting has made a huge difference for the Lakers as a whole. In Tuesday’s win over the Nuggets, Zubac finished with 17 points and six rebounds while hitting eight of his nine shots from the field.
While injuries and the Lakers freefall in the standings certainly contributed to Zubac suddenly seeing the floor, he made it clear that he doesn’t plan on falling out of the rotation now.
“It means a lot because I was working hard since summer league. This was my reward,” Zubac told Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters. “I’ve been working hard for these minutes and I’m not going to let them go.”
Zubac’s play has certainly been a pleasant surprise, but it has also now created something of a dilemma for head coach Luke Walton. He has been open about Zubac earning more minutes, but Julius Randle has been out the last couple of games which clears up some minutes for him.
Randle could be returning to the lineup as soon as Thursday however, and that creates quite the logjam in the Lakers’ front court. Randle and Larry Nance Jr. are unlikely to fall out of the rotation and Walton still prefers Mozgov’s veteran leadership and defense so Tarik Black could be the odd man out.
How Walton handles this remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Lakers have found another draft steal outside of the lottery. Zubac joins Nance and Jordan Clarkson as players picked 27th or later who look to be a major part of the Lakers’ future and at this rate, he could be the best of all of them.