Zach LaVine, the talented freshman from UCLA, is flying up draft boards. Playing the shooting guard position, LaVine could be the perfect prospect for the Sixers to grab with the No. 10 selection. LaVine might be a reach that early in the draft, but his athleticism and upside tell a different story.
LaVine stands at 6-foot-6, which is the perfect height for a Sam Hinkie shooting guard. In 37 games at UCLA, LaVine averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. LaVine shot 44 percent from the floor and 38 percent from deep. Those numbers aren’t making anyone draft LaVine so high, but remember that he only played 24.4 minutes per game. LaVine’s per-40 pace adjusted stats show 14.6 points along with four rebounds per contest.
However, LaVine isn’t about coming into the game immediately and having an impact, it’s more about the upside. You should probably get used to hearing the term “upside” with a lot of these draft prospects. At the LeBron James and Deron Williams basketball camps in 2012, LaVine measured in at 6-f00t-3, so he’s grown close to three inches in two years. The new breed of guards in the NBA are all looking more like Magic Johnson, rather than Allen Iverson. Imagine putting two 6-foot-6 guards in the back court in Michael Carter-Williams and Zach LaVine. Is anyone else getting excited?
The main things that make LaVine a great prospect are his athleticism, which helps in transition; his shooting ability, especially from deep; and his youth.
Wait, I mentioned his FREAKISH ATHLETICISM right?
Plays like that are exactly why LaVine is something the 76ers need to take advantage of. His athleticism is already at an elite level. LaVine plays above the rim, which is something the Sixers don’t have much of. I can’t even contain my excitement if the 76ers nabbed Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine in the NBA Draft. This team would be a problem in a few seasons.
His athleticism makes him a threat in transition too. According to DraftExpress, 32.1 percent of LaVine’s offense came from transition, which he averaged 1.2 PPP. He can use his length and wiry build at 180 lbs to snake past defenders and soar to the cup for an easy layup. Everyone has seen the 76ers miss plenty of easy transition opportunities the past few seasons, Zach LaVine could end that mess. LaVine has no problem pushing the ball by himself in transition either, he scored 1.06 PPP as the transition ball handler, which accounted for 27.8 percent of his transition opportunities (per DraftExpress).
Obviously, LaVine is a freakish athlete, but he also brings another element to the table that the Sixers need badly — perimeter shooting. Mentioned earlier, LaVine shot 38 percent from deep in his lone season at UCLA. Per DraftExpress, he scores 0.99 PPP on all jumpers. He may be streaky and unorthodox at times, but he can catch fire in a heartbeat. The best part about his shooting ability is the fact that he can come off of screens, catch and shoot, or off the bounce. Adding this in with his deadly athleticism and LaVine will be a force on the offensive side of the ball. His explosiveness also grants LaVine the ability to stop on a dime and rise up for a jumper. This can be lethal when opponents expect him to fly to the rim most of the time.
Oh yeah, did I mentioned that LaVine JUST turned 19 years old in March? He’ll already have two seasons of NBA experience under his belt before the kid can order himself a beer after nailing a game winning jumper — how crazy is that? His frame still needs to fill out some more, but there is so much upside in LaVine’s game.
Of course, when a prospect has so much upside, there are usually things they have to work on. LaVine has problems creating in the half-court, as his athleticism can’t really be taken advantage of. LaVine only scored 0.59 PPP in isolation opportunities, which was 12.3 percent of his offense. He only made 17 shots at the rim in the half-court in 37 games. He almost comes to a stop in the half-court, which is concerning. He tends to force things and has trouble with his decision making also. This is typical with young athlete’s like LaVine — he will find his way. These things will be developed and start to become a strength of his game. Being so young, he will develop leaps and bounds before he’s a finished product.
LaVine would bring excitement to the Wells Fargo Center that hasn’t been seen in years upon years. An explosive athlete that can throw down some insane high flying dunks. He has tons of upside and is only 19 years old. The 76ers need a shooting guard, so why not LaVine? They have the time to allow him to blossom into a complete player and more than just an athlete.
Do you want to see the Sixers take Zach LaVine with the No. 10 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft?