Zach LaVine | 2014 NBA Draft Profile

UCLA guard Zach LaVine showcased his athleticism and shooting skill during his lone season with the Bruins. Now, he's got to prove his defensive abilities will be able to handle NBA assignments.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

UCLA | Freshman | Shooting Guard | 6-foot-5 | 180 lbs

2013-14: 24.4 MPG, 9.4 PPG, .441 FG%, .375 3FG%, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG

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Editor’s Note: Throughout June, Timberwolves.com will profile a series of prospects that could be available at Minnesota’s No. 13 pick, or if they choose to be mobile during the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26. Part IV highlights UCLA guard Zach LaVine, who showcased great athleticism and explosiveness in his lone season with the Bruins.

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When Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad left UCLA last year, one of the things he spoke about most was his work ethic on the court. He was a “gym rat,” he said, and his willingness to work before and after scheduled practices would set him apart. And by and large, it did. Muhammad was one of the last people to leave the LifeTime Fitness Training Center last season, and it helped him stay ready when he did get his opportunity to play.

Now, a year later, we have a new collection of UCLA products attempting to enter the NBA. And one of them, guard Zach LaVine, believes he has that same hard-working mentality.

“I feel like I’m one of the hardest workers,” LaVine said. “I’m always at the gym. I’m going to work my butt off. Talent-wise, I feel like I can space the floor. I’m very athletic, I feel like I can defend, create for other players.”

He played his one season at UCLA under Steve Alford, who took over for longtime coach Ben Howland prior to the 2013-14 season. But the program, regardless of who is coaching, has a time-honored tradition of producing top-level NBA talent. You always wonder who might be the next big name to come out of Westwood.

LaVine got a fair amount of minutes off the bench this season with the Bruins—sharing some of that perimeter playing time with other NBA prospects like teammate shooting guard Jordan Adams and small forward Kyle Anderson. UCLA certainly had a nice combination of talent on the wing with players like that, each of whom providing athleticism and offensive capabilities.

Throughout the Draft workouts, LaVine is trying to showcase his skill level on the court and his level of competition. It’s why he participated in as many thing as he could at the Draft Combine in Chicago, and he’s hoping that shows through when he’s meeting with teams.

“I’m not scared of competition, man,” LaVine said. “I want to go through here and not have any doubts about myself. I’m not scared of anything. It’s my first time. This is going to be my only Combine, so I want to have fun out here.”

He sees himself as a player who can be both a point guard and a shooting guard at the next level, so teams that are interested in him will need to decide if he caters toward one more than the other or if he indeed can play both guard spots. If he can, that gives him more flexibility at the next level.

“I like having the ball in my hands, but you know, this year I played a little bit off the ball so I guess I’ve got to show a little bit of both sides of my game. And now I’m showing a little bit of my point guard skills.”

STRENGTHS

LaVine is a guy who can play above the rim, and you have to appreciate his athleticism. He has the ability to hit from NBA 3-point range, which is always a big deal while making the transition from college to the pros. He got out and running in transition for the Bruins and was explosive in his finishes. He’s got a quick first step that helps him gain position. He’s young, which means teams will look at him as a 19-year-old with several years of potential skill growth ahead of him. LaVine is able to attack the hoop early in his team’s offensive sets, he can catch-and-shoot effectively, and he’s also solid shooting while coming off screens or off the dribble. He’s the type of athlete that certainly has some things to work on in his game, but if he’s available his athletic ability and his shooting touch makes him a very attractive selection.

WEAKNESSES

The biggest question mark with LaVine is his defense and his overall toughness. He wasn’t an exceptional defender at UCLA, particularly keeping up with strong guards. A good portion of the NBA’s best athletes play the 2, so if he is put in that situation how will he respond on the defensive end? From a toughness standpoint, how will he handle the boards or fighting through screens at the next level? A team might also be curious about his ability to withstand a full 82-game season. At UCLA, he registered double-digit points in 13 of his first 19 games but did so just four times in his final 18 games. That included three NCAA tournament contests in which he shot a combined 3-of-15 with eight total points. He’s not great in contact, and he prefers to use his right hand.

THEY SAID IT

“You know, I’m never satisfied with a workout. I’m pretty much a perfectionist when it comes to my jumpshot. I feel like if I miss 2-3, I get mad at myself. But I feel like I had a good workout and look to build on that tomorrow.” — UCLA guard Zach LaVine on his NBA Draft Combine workout in May

WHAT HE CAN BRING TO THE WOLVES

LaVine has a 6-foot-8 wingspan, and that combined with his 6-foot-5 height should give him solid length at the NBA level. He’s an athletic player, no question about it, and he can be explosive in the open court. He also has a nice shooting stroke—as he demonstrated at the Combine last month. LaVine would give the team a bit more explosiveness on the wing and another option to shoot on the outside, both of which are nice pieces to have on an NBA roster. He can be streaky, as his numbers dictate, but when he’s on he can help a team on the offensive end.

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