He has not logged a single minute in an NBA game, but some are already comparing him to other great point guards. Dwight Walton, basketball insider for TSN 690, likened LaVine to Russell Westbrook:
Zach LaVine reminds me of Russell Westbrook when he came out of UCLA. Crazy athletic ability. His skills need to catch up. Crazy potential.— Dwight Walton (@Bballinsider) June 26, 2014
The biggest strength for the rookie guard is his elite athleticism. His speed and explosive leaping ability make him a huge threat, especially on the fast break (as seen in the GIF below).
Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders has been very vocal about his young prospect's physical ability:
"He's the best athlete in the draft." - Flip Saunders on draft pick Zach LaVine pic.twitter.com/Yz25rYWusC— MN Timberwolves (@MNTimberwolves) June 27, 2014
LaVine proved his elite athleticism when he recorded a 46-inch vertical at a Los Angeles Lakers predraft workout:
LaVine has also shown to be an excellent perimeter scorer. Last season at UCLA, he averaged 9.4 points per game and shot 37.5 percent from the arc.
Unfortunately, his basketball IQ has come into question. LaVine took way too many pull-up jump shots at UCLA, and he doesn't drive to the basket nearly as often as he should.
Another big problem for LaVine is his weak, small frame, which makes him a liability when it comes to defense. His inability to take contact could make it tough to fight through picks or box out for rebounds.
This is a common occurrence for many one-and-done college players. These players are usually very young (around 19 or 20 years old) and their bodies still need time to develop. All LaVine needs is a membership to the local gym or YMCA and he'll be fine.
Two years ago, some scouts complained that Anthony Davis was too frail and/or weak, but last season he averaged 20.8 points per game and ranked fourth in player efficiency rating, according to ESPN.
Possibly the best thing about LaVine is that he's only 19 years old, which gives him plenty of time to mature both mentally and physically.
Fortunately for the Timberwolves, LaVine has looked very impressive in the NBA Summer League. On July 18, he scored 22 points and collected four assists versus the New Orleans Pelicans. His highlights can be seen in the video below.
Even though LaVine has shown enormous offensive potential, he might be better suited as a shooting guard rather than a point guard. At 6'6", he can easily transition to the 2 position, and with his questionable basketball IQ, he might be better off on the wing.
It's even fair to say that he has more upside than the first overall selection, Andrew Wiggins. Both players are the same age and have equal athleticism, but LaVine is clearly the superior shooter. Wiggins is definitely better defensively, but his jump shot is inconsistent.
However, there is a chance that these two prospects might end up on the same team. If the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love for Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, this could be a very dangerous team five years down the road.
With LaVine's elite athleticism and impressive three-point shooting, he has the ability to become a top-10 scorer in the NBA.
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