For Robert Upshaw, now is the time to prove that all the talk of his potential has been warranted. He’s a seven-footer who some projected to be a potential lottery pick until he was dismissed from the Fresno State basketball program in 2013 and Washington’s in 2015 due to disciplinary reasons.
After going undrafted in June, Upshaw joined the Lakers Summer League team and underwhelmed. Upshaw, who admitted that he was not in shape for the Las Vegas tournament, averaged just 1.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 11.5 minutes per contest.
Clearly, the Lakers hope for more out of the Fresno native, as he inked a deal with the team last week. With training camp beginning in eight days, he has shed 20 pounds and is looking for the same type of success that he enjoyed in his dominant, yet brief, time as UW’s center.
In only 19 games with the Huskies, Upshaw managed to break Washington’s all-time season record for blocks with 85. He also finished with the second-most in the Pac-12 despite playing in 16 fewer contests than first-place Jordan Bell of Oregon, who had just nine more swats.
Upshaw — who averaged 4.5 blocks at UW and had 10 games with at least five — flashed this shot-blocking potential at Summer League with three rejections in only 12 minutes during the tournament opener against Minnesota (July 10).
However, the 21-year-old went frigid from there, as he managed only five points and one block over the remaining four games of Summer League combined.
Still, the Lakers expect more out of Upshaw, who contributed 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game at Washington. The rookie went for double-digit scoring 14 times last season, including six double-doubles.
While Upshaw has yet to be tested by (non-Summer League) NBA talent, he does possess optimism-launching physical traits. Of the 63 players measured at the 2015 NBA Combine, Upshaw led the class with the highest standing reach (9’5”) and longest wingspan (7’5.5”). Tailored for blocking shots, Upshaw’s paws also topped the group in hand length (10 inches) and width (11 inches).
At UW, Upshaw used his towering frame and surprisingly nimble mobility to deter opponents from attacking the rim. Per DraftExpress, the Huskies’ foes shot just 38.5 percent on 2-pointers with Upshaw on the floor — 11.2 percent worse than when he sat.
Yet while he still needs work in order to challenge NBA scorers, he is even rawer on the other end. Upshaw was able to bully his college opponents in the low post, shooting 59.3 percent from the field — but the pros will obviously be harder to handle. He also shot just 43.4 percent on free throws (36-of-83), but has shown flashes of close- and mid-range touch in his short time with the purple and gold.