One of the biggest surprises for the Los Angeles Lakers this season was the emergence of an unknown center in rookie Ivica Zubac. The Lakers brass selected Zubac with the 32nd overall pick last June and may have gotten the steal of the draft with the Croatian center being much better than expected.
Zubac went from the end of the bench to the starting lineup over the course of his rookie season with the Lakers. The 20-year-old hopes that next season he can retain that starting role at the center position, via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Ivica Zubac says going into training camp he’ll have to prove himself again but hopefully he will get the Lakers starting spot next season.
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 13, 2017
With veteran center Timofey Mozgov under contract for another three years, Zubac will likely have his work cut out for him to land the starting gig right out of the gate next season. Zubac is clearly confident and for good reason, considering the polished skills he showed before going down with the season-ending ankle injury.
Although Zubac seems to be destined to be the longtime starter at center, he may have a bit of a battle with Mozgov in training camp and throughout the preseason come September.
Regardless of whether Zubac ultimately gets the starting job to start next season, the Croatian import was impressive in his rookie campaign and could become a household name in Los Angeles before long.
In 38 games played, Zubac averaged 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and nearly a block per game (0.9) in 16 minutes a night. The rookie’s numbers improved when thrust into the starting lineup as he averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 59.1 percent from the floor.