2014 NBA Draft — Zach LaVine
SCHOOL: University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins
HEIGHT: 6-Feet, 5-Inches
WEIGHT: 181 LBS
PROJECTION: 10 -15
LaVine represents the core of what makes the draft enticing for so many; he has unpolished potential that could make him a star. It’s true you could say that about most draft entrants, with sure-bets being limited to historic greats like LeBron James, Tim Duncan, etc. But most draftees don’t have LaVine’s athleticism, length and other-worldly hops:
This is footage from a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers (his first of two), where LaVine posted a tremendous 46-inch leap (after posting a 41.5-inch mark weeks earlier at the NBA draft combine). The vertical leaping has fans drooling but NBA scouts are still wary. LaVine didn’t start as a sophomore at UCLA (a rumored factor in his decision to enter the draft) so he’s unproven but he did display a decent shooting stroke from long-range (37.5 percent for the entire season after starting off shooting well over 40 percent), the ability to finish strong in transition and good speed. His highlights from his career-best game this season have these talents on display:
The video also shows his weaknesses, of which there are many. LaVine, while a great finisher, isn’t a good shooter off the dribble and his ball-handling is suspect. His jump shot, while decent, has a weird hitch that is nearly Shawn Marion-like and his shot selection leaves a lot to be desired. His long limbs make him a good help defender but his on-ball defense is weak and comes across as lacking effort.
But he’s only 19 and there’s still so much time during which he could develop.
LaVine is seemingly being courted by the Lakers but, at the No. 7 overall pick, that is a reach even for the local college standout. He’d develop behind Kobe (imagine the classic practice duels between the proud, aging veteran and the athletic rookie looking to make a name for himself!) and he’d benefit from some support to lift his spirits while he gets stashed on the bench for the next few years. But the Lakeshow probably needs to win immediately to recover from last year’s putrid season and LaVine, while promising, isn’t going to be a factor as a rookie. At best, he’ll play a limited version of his role at UCLA; a boost off the bench that can shoot, get the crowd energized and often make the highlight reel. But he needs to develop consistency in every aspect of his game to earn regular minutes in the rotation. Otherwise, he could potentially follow Gerald Green as a Slam Dunk champion that took years to become a valuable contributor to a team with low expectations.