Despite the Los Angeles Lakers logjam at the center position, this season is going to be particularly important for Ivica Zubac, surrounded by veterans who can help his development.
Last year the Los Angeles Lakers organization and fans were ecstatic to have found another diamond in the rough in the second round of the draft. Center Ivica Zubac had a strong rookie season earning valuable playing time and proving that he belongs to the NBA.
Coming into his second Summer League, he was expected to be a dominant force with fellow sophomore Brandon Ingram. However, because of some change in playing style, as he acknowledged, and a bit of superficiality on his part, he had a subpar tournament.
Zu did not make any excuse for his shortcomings, using them as a motivation to work harder the whole summer.
And he immediately bounced back in Lakers’ preseason debut scoring nine points, five rebounds and two blocks against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Since then, his production and minutes have dropped again, but he showed something more important: he learned the lesson from Summer League and he is going to work hard no matter how much he plays.
This will be a fundamental approach for Zubac in what is going to be a pivotal year. He will probably not receive plenty of playing time because of the acquisition of veterans Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut, but he will have the chance to learn from two centers who rank among the best in their respective fields.
Lopez will be a great offensive mentor for Zu, teaching him how to operate in the post, but most importantly in guiding him on the path to become a stretch-5. The L.A. native was one of the best (if not the best) centers to spread the floor with the 3-point shooting last year and his experience in the adjusting process will be of great benefit for Big Z.
Bogut will make his part on the defensive end. Famous for being an outstanding post defender and shot blocker, he was an instrumental part of the 2015 NBA champions Golden State Warriors as the defensive anchor. The Aussie has a lot to teach to Zubac on how to oversee the defense leading the unit from the rear, and bring some toughness.
The Croatian could not have asked for two better mentors. He will have to take advantage of this incredible opportunity picking the brain of the two veterans whenever he can.
Furthermore, the Lakers could still have some ace up their sleeve by calling in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who already prepared big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the past.
Even Chris Bosh, formerly represented by Rob Pelinka and recently spotted at Lakers practice, could be invited to share some of his knowledge, although he declared to not be interested in teaching to ‘grown men’.
This year constitutes a fundamental step in Zubac’s development. These successful veterans are going to be a positive and important influence that will define his growth into a role that is becoming increasingly complicated in a league shifting to small lineups and super-skilled centers.