Ivica Zubac has become a fan-favorite for his affable nature and bromance with Larry Nance, Jr. as much as anything, but he’s made a name for himself with his burgeoning game as well.
The rookie big man has moved into the starting lineup as of late, a rotation change that’s fueled the most impressive month of his young career. Zubac is averaging 13 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game in March, averages that would translate to 20.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per-36 minutes.
That’s solid production for such a young seven-footer, and at the very least somewhat reminiscent of the early work of another center the Lakers selected in the second-round years ago, Marc Gasol.
According to Zubac, that’s no accident. During a live chat with fans the Lakers set up over social media, Zubac told moderator Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that Gasol is a player he’s trying to emulate:
Ivica Zubac says that he models his game largely off of Marc Gasol. "He plays so smart." #SuitingUpTogetherhttps://t.co/wMm2rjY6XZ— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 23, 2017
Making himself as good as Gasol is the pie-in-the-sky scenario for Zubac, but it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility.
Gasol’s per-36 minutes numbers from his rookie year (13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds) are actually similar to Zubac’s per game production over the last month (averages Zubac is putting up in fewer minutes and with higher efficiency, shooting 62 percent compared to 53 percent for Gasol).
Does this mean Zubac is going to be Gasol? Of course not, there is a long way to go before such comparisons become realistic, and the former would have to get miles better defensively.
One other similarity Zubac and Gasol had was coming into the league with a little extra baby fat, and while Zubac didn’t have as far to go in that regard as a player once nicknamed “Big Burrito,” he’s still come a long way since his debut:
Ivica Zubac says he has dropped 24 pounds since the beginning of the season.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 23, 2017
"I can run a lot more." https://t.co/wMm2rjY6XZ
But while Zubac wants to emulate Gasol in some ways, he also wants to be his own player while incorporating a move Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made famous:
Ivica Zubac: "I think next season's gonna be the season I start shooting Skyhooks." #SuitingUpTogetherhttps://t.co/wMm2rjY6XZ— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 23, 2017
If Zubac could truly master the skyhook, it would make him an even more versatile and dynamic offensive force, and Lakers fans should have hope, because his choice in moves isn’t the only evidence he makes solid decisions:
Ivica Zubac's favorite TV shows? 'Breaking Bad' and 'Game of Thrones.'https://t.co/wMm2rjY6XZ— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 23, 2017
Build this man a statue right now, Lakers. He’s earned it.
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.