Heading into the 2016 NBA Draft, the sole focus for the Los Angeles Lakers was the No. 2 overall pick. That turned out to be Duke’s Brandon Ingram and so far the team has seen flashes of his potential to be a great NBA player.
With team’s second-round draft pick, however, the Lakers chose to go with a player virtually no one had heard of in Croatian center Ivica Zubac. The 32nd overall pick was ecstatic to be drafted by his favorite team, but Lakers fans had no idea what to expect from him.
On Friday night, in an otherwise forgettable blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Zubac provided a glimpse of what he can do on the NBA level. Zubac, who has spent most of his time with the Los Angeles D-Fenders this season, had arguably his best game of his rookie campaign and promised more to come, via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
“Every time I get my chance,” Zubac said, “I’m going to be like this.”
The seven-footer finished with a career-high eight points to go along with four rebounds, two steals, a block, and an assist in only 15 minutes on the floor. Zubac’s performance earned him high praise from head coach Luke Walton after the game, via Medina:
“He was good. He has a great feel for the game,” Walton said. “That’s why we’re so high on him.”
Zubac, who has received comparisons to Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, appears to have a bright future ahead. As Walton stated, the Lakers think highly of the 19-year-old rookie and likely see him apart of the team’s long-term plans.
The Croatian center isn’t being brought along as quickly as Ingram in his rookie season, and will almost certainly continue to spend a lot of time in the D-League. Despite that being the case, he’s made an impression on the Lakers brass and could be the starting center in the near future.