Not very many fans knew who Ivica Zubac was when the Los Angeles Lakers made him the 32nd overall pick in this year’s draft. His play during Summer League gained him some fans, but with the Lakers having a pretty crowded front court, head coach Luke Walton felt it was best for Zubac to spend some time in the D-League with the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
Overall, Zubac played 13 games with the D-Fenders, averaging 15.6 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting a solid 57.8 percent from the field. His experience and development down there has helped him become a regular contributor in recent games for the Lakers.
According to Bill Oram of the OC Register, Zubac used his time in the D-League as motivation to get better so he could contribute to the Lakers when his time came:
“That was really big motivation for me because I knew at some point in the season, something’s going to happen and I’m going to have to play,” Zubac said. “I was just preparing for that moment.”
When that moment came for Zubac he was definitely prepared and the Lakers are reaping the benefits of his development in the D-League. In the last five games he is averaging 9.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks with three double-doubles. Of course Zubac would prefer that his numbers come in wins, but that will come as he and the rest of the team continue to get better.
The D-League is really becoming an excellent tool for teams who hope to get their young players some valuable playing time and development opportunities. The Lakers have made great usage of it, not only for Zubac, but also in the case of Jordan Clarkson two years ago.
Even though the team is struggling right now, the Lakers have a young group of players that is worth building around. Plenty of development is still needed, but they have all shown flashes with Zubac being the most recent example.