Most of the fanfare regarding the 2015 NBA Draft centered around LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram. The Los Angeles Lakers were fortunate to find themselves in a position to select the much-celebrated Ingram, bringing hope to fans of the struggling franchise. With the 32nd overall pick they took a young Croatian center named Ivica Zubac, a pick which received much less attention but could end up being extremely important.
Zubac, at just 19 years old, quickly earned fan-favorite status after his strong play in the Las Vegas Summer League. He has a soft touch around the rim and his long arms make him a solid rim-protector, which is something the Lakers sorely need.
Zubac hasn’t seen many minutes for Los Angeles this season and has spent a lot of time playing for the D-Fenders in the D-League, but it appears that head coach Luke Walton is ready to start feeding him minutes with the big boys (via Shahan Ahmed of NBCLA):
Luke said that the Lakers' coaching staff has been looking for opportunities to get Zubac minutes: "He's earned them"
— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) January 16, 2017
It’s easy to see why fans have been so enamored with Zubac. He’s a life-long Lakers fan who still maintains a boyish enthusiasm about playing for his favorite team, as though every day is a trip to Disneyland.
On the court, he continually flashes potential of everything the Lakers have lacked: shot-blocking, scoring, and passing from the center position. It also doesn’t hurt that Zubac draws comparisons to a young Marc Gasol, and admitted to spending time as a youth learning moves from Gasol and Hakeem Olajuwon on YouTube.
It also doesn’t hurt his popularity that Zubac has been attempting to revive perhaps the greatest shot in Lakers (and NBA) history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook. The last few years have been tough for Lakers fans, but Zubac has been a breath of fresh air, and it looks like we will be seeing a lot more of him in the second half of the season.