Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers haven't had a whole lot to cheer about over the last few weeks. The team's starters have suffered injuries (D'Angelo Russell, Luol Deng) and illness (Julius Randle), all while the team went 2-8 over their last 10 games.
Serving as the bright spot amidst the gloom has been the play of second-round rookie Ivica Zubac. After getting the majority of his run with the Los Angeles D-Fenders over the first half of the season, Zubac has burst off of the Lakers' bench and into their rotation.
The 19-year old center has posted averages of nine points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game over the Lakers' last five games, and it naturally begs the question: With the Lakers near the bottom of the standings once again and needing to focus on development over wins, when is he going to make his way into the starting lineup?
Lakers head coach Luke Walton shared his thoughts with Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
"That’s definitely a possibility that at some point he starts,” Walton told Medina. “The further we get (from) actually having a chance to make the playoffs, the more you have to put some thought and focus on developing the young guys even more.”
Zubac's development hasn't even hurt the Lakers' level of play when he’s gotten minutes. Every member of the team has had a negative net rating over the Lakers' last five games, but the team has "only" been outscored by 8.7 points per 100 possessions with Zubac on the floor versus 15.6 with him off.
Five games don't necessarily indicate a trend that's here to stay, however, the eye test reflects what the numbers say. Zubac looks comfortable and fluid as part of the Lakers' offense, and while he still looks lost defensively at times, it's also not like he's sabotaging some defensive juggernaut, either.
Between the Lakers needing to see what they have and his surprising effectiveness, there is really no reason for Zubac to fall out of the rotation as the Lakers season continues.