Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
For all the talk about Jabari Parker’s talent and Kyle Anderson‘s homecoming entering Thursday’s Duke-UCLA game at Madison Square Garden, nobody is flying up NBA Draft boards quite like UCLA freshman Zach LaVine.
The Website NBADraft.net currently has the 6-foot-5, 180-pound Seattle native at No. 5 on its 2014 Mock Draft — ahead of Julius Randle, Dante Exum and Gary Harris.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com has LaVine at No. 10.
“I’m a big fan,” Ford told SNY.tv of LaVine. “I think he’s cooled off a little bit with his jump shot from where he’s started the season but that’s to be expected because he was shooting 60 percent. [He’s currently shooting 59 percent from 2 and 47 percent from 3.]
“But when you see a combination of shooting stroke, really bouncy athletically and he really seems aggressive when he’s out there playing. And if you watched him in high school you see that he can play the point a little bit, too. To me, he’s a little bit like [Andrew] Wiggins. OK not ready, but when you look at the package and you can say if this keeps developing, he’s a guy who could have a huge impact in the NBA because how do you guard that as a point guard?
“But he’s skinny and he doesn’t even start for UCLA right now. Is he ready for the NBA right now? No, but I might say that about everybody but Jabari and Julius Randle. I think those guys are ready to play in the NBA right now.”
LaVine is averaging 13.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists off the bench.
But one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv that LaVine was a hot topic among his colleagues right now because of his combination of “athleticism, size, scoring ability and [being] a combo guard.”
As Exhibit A of his athleticism check out the above windmill dunk Lavine recently executed in UCLA’s loss to Missouri — the Bruins’ lone loss of the season.
“I just try to attack the rim as hard as I can,” LaVine told the L.A. Daily News. “Try to get the crowd pumped up a little bit.”
As for whether he’ll come out, who knows?
“His focus is about the here and now and what’s in front of him,” LaVine’s godfather, Marvin Carter, told the L.A. Daily News. “Those things kind of go in and out of his head. He’s aware of things, but he doesn’t live for those type of things.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.