Zach LaVine might be the most polarizing draft prospect the Hornets have tried out. The 6-foot-6, 180 lb guard from UCLA only spent one year in college, showed flashes of elite athleticism, and is now a candidate for Charlotte at #9…and maybe at #24.
That Charlotte could have two different chances at him should tell you something about where he is on draft boards: all over the place. I’ve heard him compared to Russell Westbrook in terms of sheer athletic ability. He’s a player that spent one year in college coming off the bench and is leaving for the NBA based on potential. He’s a gamble. That bet just becomes more tolerable the farther he falls in the draft.
Let’s get this out of the way now: Zach LaVine can FLY. The Lakers let him take a few steps before his vertical jump and it measured 46 inches. That’s up there with LeBron and Jordan. At the Draft Combine this year he was tops in the lane agility drill, second in the shuttle run, and forth in vertical leap (from standing it was 33.5 inches). Considering the NBA allows running before jumping, it’s ok to freak out about the Lakers’ measurement.
Zach LaVine is also known for his scoring in transition and shooting ability. Scouts like that he can come around a screen for a catch-and-shoot. He played PG in high school so he’s used to having the ball and can out-jump the defender to get his shot off. He attacks on the fast break. It’s possible the thing coaches like most is he’s only 19 years old. He was born 1 week before MJ returned to the Bulls after playing baseball.
But what did he really accomplish in college? He averaged under 10 ppg. For a guy that had experience running point, he averaged 1.8 assists and clearly struggled creating for teammates. And the NCAA Tournament games? He scored 8 points…total over 3 games.
Here is a scouting video on Zach LaVine:
He has shaky fundamentals on his shot, he doesn’t square to the basket so his jumping momentum can carry him laterally, which affects consistency. He settles for jumpers in the half court. When he did go to the basket he couldn’t finish through contact.
Zach LaVine shot over 37% from 3 but was reportedly not great at showing that skill at his Hornets’ workout. He was a poor defender despite being so quick with his feet. His effort was uneven on D and he wasn’t strong enough to handle any physicality.
The Westbrook comparisons could be based on athletic ability alone but their games don’t corroborate that comparison. Westbrook was known from the beginning for driving and finishing, and was/is a relentless defender. LaVine’s scouting report reminds me more of Gerald Green: loads of potential, crazy athletic, young and immature at the draft.
A lot of these faults could just be from youth. Younger players struggle with consistent effort and have not grown into their bodies yet.
If twitter comments are king, LaVine is either savior or bust. Plenty of teams have swung and missed on a prospect that was this raw, but LaVine’s athleticism sends his potential through the roof he just jumped over. He is very young and has a lot of learning to do. He will get stronger. The big question will be is he worth the risk? I’d double down on drafting him. Just not at 9.
Well Hornets fans? Is Zach LaVine worth the risk?
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