Zach LaVine NBA Draft 2014: Highlights, Scouting Report for Timberwolves Rookie

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Zach LaVine NBA Draft 2014: Highlights, Scouting Report for Timberwolves Rookie
Harry How/Getty Images

Drafted by: Minnesota Timberwolves, No. 13 pick overall

School: UCLA
Height/Weight: 6'6", 181 lbs
Age: 19 years old
Projected NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Combo Guard
Pro Comparison: Gerald Green/Poor-man's Russell Westbrook
Twitter Handle: @ZachLaVine

 

Despite playing off the bench in his only year at UCLA, Zach LaVine turned heads with his outstanding athleticism and outside shooting.

He's an attractive prospect due to his potential as a slasher, facilitator and perimeter threat. During his stints on the floor in 2013-14, he exploded in transition and displayed some impressive range on his jumper.

Most of his draft value is based on upside, and although he's a risky pick, you can't ignore his speed, leaping ability and budding skills.  

If he can reach his ceiling, he'll be an uncontainable weapon.

Statistics at UCLA
MIN PTS AST STL FG% 3P%
24.4 9.4 1.8 0.9 .441 .375

Sports-Reference.com

 

PHYSICAL TOOLS

LaVine's 6'5.75" stature (in shoes) is ideal for a combo guard, but the most impressive physical tool he owns is his leaping ability.

He bounced for a 41.5-inch vertical at the NBA Draft Combine, and a couple of weeks later he soared for a possible 46-inch jump at his Los Angeles Lakers workout.

LaVine also displayed elite foot speed throughout his season at UCLA and at workouts. He accelerates like he's running downhill, and his lateral movement indicates he could be a great on-ball defender.

When you're drawing comparisons to guys like Gerald Green and Russell Westbrook, you know you've got 99th percentile athleticism.

 

CORE STRENGTHS

Open-Floor Explosiveness

LaVine uses his blinding speed and vertical prowess to dominate in the open floor. If he gets a lane to the bucket or a transition opportunity, he's as good as gone.

His quickness allows him to knife through gaps that most players can't, and his ability to cover ground and elevate makes fast-break finishes look easy.

As he becomes more of a dangerous shooter, pump-fakes will allow him to get more spacious drives in half-court situations, rather than exclusively transition plays.

 

Perimeter Shooting

LaVine shot 37.5 percent from three-point range at UCLA, which isn't spectacular, but his delivery and range pass the NBA eye test.

He can spot up, catch and hop for smooth jumpers, or he can shake his man off the dribble and spring up on a dime to launch from deep. Even though he came off the bench for Steve Alford's Bruins, he buried multiple triples on 15 occasions in 2013-14.

With a little more polishing, his outside shot could be a productive asset in the NBA. The material and talent is there for him to stretch defenses and become an efficient scorer.

 

Two-Way Combo-Guard Upside

LaVine's draft appeal goes beyond his athleticism and shooting skills. During his lone season at UCLA, we saw glimpses of ball-handling ability, slashing and passing skills. He dished three-plus assists in 11 different games, and he sprinkled in some mid-range creativity.

While he may never be a true point guard in the Association, he could definitely spend significant time initiating offense as a combo guard, using his speed and ball-handling ability to keep defenses off-balance.

His potential versatility also extends to the defensive side, where he has the size to guard wings and the speed to check point guards. Once LaVine learns the nuances of team defense and disciplined one-on-one stoppage, his physical tools will give his coach flexibility.

To be fair, this "combo-guard upside" is not a sure thing. But it's a distinct possibility.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

 

WEAKNESSES/CONCERNS

LaVine's weaknesses revolve around a relative lack of polish and experience.

His ball-handling skills aren't incredibly advanced, so he can't consistently generate separation or set up his teammates. In addition, he doesn't have the best feel for when to shoot, and his decision making in half-court scenarios leaves something to be desired.

Defensively, LaVine needs to improve his awareness, energy and strength. He could be sharper positionally and play a tougher style on that end.

NBADraft.net scout Jorrye Nixon noted that he "Is a pretty underwhelming defensive player, and will have a tough time finding consistent minutes on an NBA team until he shows more effort and strength on this end." 

LaVine's keys to improvement are hitting the film room, soaking up game experience and adding some muscle.

 

 

NBA PROJECTION

Immediate Projection

He's not going to own a substantial role early in his career. There's too much for him to learn on both ends of the floor, as he's not ready to handle the possession-by-possession responsibilities of a featured scorer.

He could, however, maintain a role in the rotation as a high-energy slasher, shooting option and transition weapon.

 

Long-Term Projection

LaVine's outlook three to five years from now depends largely on his grasp of the finer points of the game and ability to develop advanced skills.

If he can expand and tighten his off-the-dribble attack and become a stronger finisher at the rim, he'll be an explosive secondary scorer at the very least. An increased feel for the game would make him a combo guard capable of dishing four to six assists per contest.

An optimistic (but realistic) outlook projects him posting 17-20 points per game and dishing three to five assists as a starter and borderline star. He'll also serve as an ultra-speedy defender. A more modest projection still includes him as a third scoring option and an exciting open-floor threat.

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