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Athleticism, attitude boost LaVine’s draft stock
by Adam Fluck
Posted on May 21
Just a few minutes after finishing in the top four among NBA Draft Combine participants in lane agility, shuttle run, standing vertical and maximum vertical drills, Zach LaVine met with reporters who asked if he was pleased with his results.
“I’m never really satisfied,” said LaVine. “I was trying to get the top spot in everything. I think I got there in two or three of the drills and I did really well in the workouts. I feel like I messed up a little bit in the vertical but other than that I had a solid day.”
LaVine’s vertical still resulted in an impressive 41.5 inches, third best among the 60 prospects on hand.
“I’ve gotten a 43 before but I guess I mistimed my steps. I feel like a 41.5 still isn’t bad,” LaVine lamented.
It’s that kind of attitude, coupled with his athleticism, which helped separate LaVine from a competitive pack. And it will serve him well as he prepares for the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26.
Just 19 years old, the 6-foot-6, 181-pound guard spent one season at UCLA. LaVine played in all 37 of the Bruins’ games, but started only once. He averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range.
Listed by the NBA at the combine as a point guard, LaVine fulfilled more of the scorer role in college but says he’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and willing to play wherever his new coach thinks is best.
“I have a good feel for the point guard position. I’ve got a really good handle,” said LaVine. “I’ve been working a lot on my reads; reading the defense coming off pick-and-rolls and setting teammates up. But I also feel I can score the ball as well at the next level. I’m working on pin downs, catch and shoot, and creating space off the dribble. I’ve been trying to work on everything so whatever a team needs me to do, I’ll do it.”
LaVine doesn’t plan on shying away from pre-draft workouts leading up to the draft. He met individually with nearly two-thirds of the teams at the combine. But LaVine isn’t getting ahead of himself when it comes to envisioning himself on a roster.
“I haven’t really thought about specific teams because you don’t know where you’ll be drafted,” LaVine said. “Either way, whatever team I get drafted to, I’m going to be extremely ecstatic because it’s always been my dream to be in the NBA. I’m going to put my heart and soul into whatever organization I go to.”
Because of age, some may label LaVine as a project. But in listening to him, he doesn’t sound like one.
“I’m the type of person that going in there, I’m trying to take someone’s job,” said LaVine. “It’s the NBA business. I know I’m 19 years old but I feel like I can contribute from day one. I’m going to try to go out there and show that.”
Given his unique size and athleticism, LaVine likens himself to Jamal Crawford, the Los Angeles Clippers guard who recently won his second NBA Sixth Man of the Year award. Both are from the Seattle area and they’ve had a chance to get to know each other, as well as square off on the basketball court.
“I’ve guarded him before and it’s not fun,” said LaVine. “I talk to him all the time. I text him and I’ve hung out a couple times with him back home. We definitely talk and he’s a great mentor for me.”
Like LaVine, Crawford declared for the NBA Draft in 2000 after one collegiate season. Coming out of Michigan, Crawford was projected as a late first round or early second round selection, but his showing at the pre-draft camp helped catapult him into the lottery. So who better than Crawford for LaVine to seek advice?
“He said, ‘Just go at it and have fun. It’ll be your first time doing it. Compete and try to (dominate) everybody. Always believe in your confidence,’” said LaVine. “That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do so far.”
Bulls.com was in attendance at the NBA Draft Combine May 15-16 in Chicago and this is the first in a series of looks at some of the various prospects projected to be taken in the first round of the draft on June 26. The Bulls own three picks in this summer’s draft—16th, 19th and 49th.