As games have gone by and Ivica Zubac continues to impress, the questions in post-game seem to come back to whether his teammates are surprised at his success at such an early age. At some point, we’re going to have to realize this kid might be for real. When that time might come, who knows.
But it’s coming, especially if you ask Larry Nance Jr.
"I love being in the same lineup as him,” Nance said on Spectrum Sportsnet (as transcribed by Serena Winters of Lakers Nation). “He’s got a really good IQ & knack for the game. We feed off each other.”
After Zubac finished Thursday night’s game against the Utah Jazz’s intimidating frontcourt with 16 points and 10 rebounds, it was hard to ignore the momentum he’s gained across Lakers social media as someone who needs to be getting more minutes. Those making such claims are absolutely right. He should, especially seeing as his
insanely overpaid older-than-dirt more experienced counterpart Timofey Mozgov continues to struggle.
Looking into two-man lineup data with Zubac and Nance wouldn’t make sense quite yet given how few minutes the two have played together, but their games do make a ton of sense alongside each other.
In Las Vegas for Summer League (yes, we’re going back to summer league), Zubac and Nance overcame opponents with length and activity. Those were obviously far inferior squads than those they’ll play up at this level, but we’re seeing some of the same tendencies when they’re on the court together now.
Zubac is somewhat lumbering — though less than you actually think — but makes up for the lack of quickness with an understanding of how to use his length.
Nance is the opposite. He is nowhere near as big as Zubac, but jumps and moves in ways Ivica probably dreams of. Shoot, we all dream of moving (and jumping) like Nance, to be honest.
Offensively, they’re both great in the pick-and-roll, and with a point guard like D’Angelo Russell (when he’s healthy), that kind of action might give teams fits. It definitely did in Las Vegas.
A lot of this fit is highly hypothetical, but the larger point here is the amount of respect Zubac has earned among teammates. Right now, the narrative is about how crazy is is that he’s having such success at his age and from his draft spot. Eventually (and it’s probably sooner than we think), the conversation will turn to what this kid actually might be capable of. According to Nance, we should all be pretty excited.