Ivica Zubac was a player that was highly ranked on many draft boards, but fell because of some injury concerns and his desire to come over and play this season. Those two things didn’t bother the Lakers at all and they didn’t hesitate to take him with the 32nd pick in the draft.
Since then, he has become a fan favorite, as he is simply a Lakers fan that is also a good basketball player. He is charming, fun to talk to, and the players have really embraced the Zubac experience. The crowd at Summer League couldn’t get enough of the Croatian, and for good reasons too. He showed a lot more early on than was originally expected from such a raw player.
Camps have come and gone and the preseason is upon us. Heading into the season, it is time to see what Zubac can do and what he needs to work on.
As a center, Zubac will be doing most of his damage from the post. Yet it is his jump shot that will truly allow his game to expand and create some spacing for the team. In Summer League, his jump shot was put on display as either Russell or another guard would drive and find Zubac with a little space to shoot. In Europe, he didn’t really get to show it, he said, but in the NBA, spacing is what teams like, so he is able to shoot that 12 footer.
For a player as big as Zubac is, he’s rather nimble. He really moves well, and it gives the team additional options when pushing the ball. The other 4 players will all be faster and get down the court before he does, but his soft hands and great touch makes him another target for the ball handler.
What created the most excitement at Summer League was Zubac’s ability to block shots. It wasn’t just his shot blocking that stood out on defense, his help defense and his shot bothering abilities were also showcased. His size is going to be a problem for big men in the future.
Most of his offense will come from the post. He can really bang in the post and use his size to finish. There isn’t anything fancy, as he is limited by his basic array of moves, but what he does even before he gets the ball is what makes him so special. He always gets good position on defenders and uses his size to bully them down and flip up a soft touched shot. He can even turn and fade if he wants to. It is odd to see a big man have this part of their game so polished. Having a fundamental post game is something that players overlook.
Shockingly, even Ivica Zubac has his flaws.
His interior offense is his greatest strength, but it is far from perfect. In Summer League and in Europe, he was able to use his basic set of moves to score as all he had to do was turn and shoot thanks to his height. In the NBA, there has to be more than that to be able to score consistently. Some of his shots are just thrown up because he failed to create space or complete a post moves. These won’t fall for him all the time. More advanced moves are needed. He has started working on the “sky hook”, so he is certainly aware that he needs to add to his arsenal. If he continues to work on it, it may come to the point where if he gets the ball dumped to him on an isolation, it’s going to be 2 points.
Although it was not exposed during Summer League, Zubac’s perimeter defense will need work. A big man in the NBA has to be able to be at least serviceable on the perimeter, as teams are calling screen after screen after screen. Lumbering big men are the ones paying the prices for it, and that is the case for Zubac. When he rotates onto a faster guard or wing player, he gets burned every time. He has to be better on this end so he isn’t a liability in the modern NBA.
Zubac is clearly a promising player that has a lot of room for improvement and seems to be a hard worker. Black appears to be the back-up center and unless an injury happens, Zubac will struggle to find any consistent minutes. It may be for the best, as he can get some time in the D-League to polish some skill and then come back if he is needed. Zubac could help out now, but the Lakers have a plan for the young Croatian. It appears as if the year of the “ZUUUUUUUU” will be put on hold for now.