Ivica Zubac has been the toast of Los Angeles for the past week. The rookie has provided productive minutes for the Lakers whenever he’s been called upon, including his first double-double when he dropped career-highs of 11 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks on the Denver Nuggets in 26 minutes.
His play has not only likely earned him a spot in the Lakers’ rotation moving forward, it has also earned plenty of praise from just about everyone in the Lakers’ organization (and even at least one opposing coach), including Larry Nance, Jr.
The sophomore forward has delighted in messing with Zubac for most of the season, and while speaking with the media after the Lakers’ practice on Thursday he continued the trend, revealing the (approximately) 200 nicknames he and the team have used to refer to everyone’s favorite 19-year old seven-footer. The Lakers were kind enough to provide video of the moment.
Has Zubac actually lived up to Nance’s Abdul-Jabbar comparison? THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU:
Zubac may fall short of Kareem in points and rebounds per-36 minutes during their rookie years, but he has him beat in blocks (as far as we know, because they didn’t keep track of blocks during Kareem’s rookie year so this statement can’t be proved wrong).
The stats are also not totally a fair comparison, given that Abdul-Jabbar was three years older than Zubac is now as a rookie. If you compare what the two did as 19-year olds in the NBA, it’s not even close*.
Right now, Zubac is averaging more points, rebounds, blocks, assists, and steals per-36 minutes as a 19-year old in the NBA than Kareem did, all while shooting higher percentages from the field, behind the arc, and at the free-throw line**.
The only possible conclusion to draw from this is that Zubac will one day become the league’s leading scorer, using his skyhook to seize the mantle as the next great Lakers center. Just don’t forget, Nance called it right from the beginning.
*Because Kareem wasn’t in the NBA yet
**Again, because Kareem wasn’t in the NBA yet
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to our thoughts on how good Zubac can be below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.