In the 2016 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers spent a second-round pick on a young center out of Croatia to was relatively unknown, Ivica Zubac.
Zubac showed his talents early on, playing well in the Las Vegas Summer League and in the preseason, but he was not able to crack the rotation to begin the season as Timofey Mozgov and Tarik Black were occupying the Lakers center minutes.
After spending the first half of the season going back and forth between the Lakers and their D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Zubac earned consistent minutes in the second half of the season and eventually cracked the starting rotation.
He started 10 straight games for the Lakers before going down with a season-ending ankle injury, and in those games, he averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent from the field in 21.2 minutes per game.
Zubac turned out to be one of the most improved rookies throughout the course of the season, and while it was too late to enter the All-Rookie Team conversation, Zubac was playing better than any other rookie center before going down with the injury.
HoopsHype recently came out with the list of most improved players as far as NBA 2K17 ratings go, and Zubac made the list as he improved his rating by eight points throughout the course of the season:
Which players improved their NBA 2K17 rating the most? pic.twitter.com/5AMSdDyWwU
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) June 8, 2017
Zubac will once again play for the Lakers Summer League team this July and could head into next season as the team’s starting center if he continues to progress. At just 20 years of age, Zubac looks to be one of the most promising of the Lakers young core of players.