Before the regular season started, beachfront property on Ivica Zubac Island was being sold for pennies on the dollar. Some people even abandoned their homes completely.
Now, 48 games into the season, there are houses being developed to cater to all of Zubac’s new and returning fans, a group that includes Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
“He’s earned a bigger role, bigger minutes. For a team that struggles to knock down free throws, most nights he’s earned the right to be in the game just by the way that he shoots free throws,” Walton said.
“He’s setting screens more consistently, he’s talking (defensive) coverages out,” Walton continued. “He’s doing all of those little things better. He’s earned more minutes and we’ll continue to play him in a bigger role.”
Walton wanting to see Zubac in a bigger role makes sense, because the 21-year-old center is in the midst of his best stretch of games with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 20.3 points on a ridiculous 82.1 percent shooting from the field, as well as a team-high 89.6 percent shooting from the free-throw line over the last three games.
That’s a very, very small sample size, but it’s been consistent with what Zubac has shown in his limited role this season. Per 36 Minutes, Zubac is averaging 20.4 points on 62.3 percent shooting from the field, 11.4 rebounds and two blocks.
The only other players that have matched those averages this season are Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. Zubac has been really, really good and he might finally be rewarded for his efforts, because that “bigger role” Walton mentions should be in the starting lineup, at least for now.
In the absence of Rajon Rondo, LeBron James and now Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have had a hard time getting points on the board. While JaVale McGee is technically averaging more points per game than Zubac this season, Zubac is a more complete offensive center and therefore fills a bigger need for the time being.
When the roster is at full strength, one could argue that the Lakers would be wise to roll with their regular starters, but in the meantime, it would be worth seeing what they have in Zubac. Right now, it looks like they might have struck late-draft gold again.