December 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Zach LaVine (14) dunks to score a basket against the Prairie View A&M Panthers during the second half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Will The Real Zach LaVine Please Stand Up?

Zach LaVine is an incredible athlete. One must be living under a rock to have not seen the photos and videos of his talents on display at the NBA Combine and recent individual workouts. He recently wowed the internet with a video of his vertical jump in a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has skills, there is no doubt about that, but does he have what it takes to consistently utilize those skills? There is a reason why so many people thought it was a bad idea for LaVine to leave UCLA after one year in order to pursue his dream of going to the NBA. For those that thoroughly watched UCLA basketball this past season, you knew what a special talent LaVine was. In nearly every game he played in, he would have some sort of spectacular slam dunk to wow or silence a crowd.  

Impressive, yes… for the beginning of the season. In the first 28 games, leading up to the home game against Oregon, he was a force to be reckoned with. In that game against the Ducks, he was relied on to play point guard due to the suspensions of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams and the unproductiveness of Bryce Alford, who started the game at PG. In that contest, LaVine logged 18 pts, 8 rebs, 5 assists and shot 7-for-17.

But after that game, and through the end of the season, LaVine was a ghost. He had vanished. He was solid gone. This is something that people are forgetting about when talking about his talents. For whatever reason, LaVine was not worth his weight in salt for the last nine games (including the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments).

 

 LaVine’s Season Averages First 28 Games Last 9 Games
Points 16.9 7.1
Assists 2.1 0.9
Minutes 25.7 20.4
Efficiency Scored In Every Game Did Not Score In 2 Games
FG Made/FG Attempted  4.0/8.4 1.7/5.7
3PT FG Made/3PT FG Attempted 1.6/3.6 0.6/2.9

 

On March 27, the UCLA Bruins lost to the Florida Gators, 79-68, in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. The next day, LaVine had declared for the draft. And if that immediate announcement the day after UCLA’s final game was not awkward enough, the comments that came out of LaVine’s camp made his exit more unsettling.


If LaVine truly wants to be a professional, him and his camp need to act like it. No matter what happened in-house with the UCLA basketball program and head coach Steve Alford, it should have stayed in-house. If there were issues between the two, just say nothing except, “I believe I am ready for the NBA.” If he or his camp are vocal about something at the professional level, he will quickly learn that it is not okay to do that… unless your name is Kobe Bryant.

Does an NBA team really want to take a gamble on a kid that is truly athletic, but could potentially fade out halfway through the season, or worse, stop caring halfway through the season because he does not fancy his current contract or situation? And that is the point many were trying to convey about him leaving early, the extra year at UCLA would not just have honed his skills, but given him more time to grow as a person and learn how to deal with adversity. Trust me, he has the moves to make it in the NBA, but that is not what NBA teams should be worried about. Godspeed, Zach LaVine.

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Mike W.R.

Twitter: @TheBigDisco

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