|Jumps like a young Mark Deeks in his prime.|Zach LaVine
, UCLA, Freshman, 6'5 180lbs2013/14 stats:
24.4 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.0 fpg, 1.1 TOpg, 44.1% FG, 37.5% 3PT, 69.1% FT
LaVine is the best athlete on this list, and the best athlete on most lists. He is dynamic and spectacular, drizzled with potential. The production isn't there yet, but the upside is real.
While his skills aren't at the level of his athleticism, they are there. Notwithstanding a mediocre free throw percentage in his only collegiate season, LaVine is a decent shooter already, from both mid-range and long. He jab steps, shoots a pull-up and already has NBA range, showcasing plenty of shot making talent with more than a dollop of flair. He jumps high to shoot and also drives a bit in the half court, often using (perhaps overusing) a spin move and able to make tough, acrobatic finishes of all kinds. LaVine is right side dominant and needs to pass more rather than force the action, especially on the break, where he often goes for the hero play rather than the percentage one, but the scoring profile is a good one.
Some project LaVine as a point guard, but this is ambitious, and perhaps born out of his lack of true shooting guard size. LaVine has never demonstrated much in the way of time and score management in the time he has had at point, nor a good floor game. He does not make plays out of the pick-and-roll much, still drives mostly to score, and makes too many errors, both in passing and handling. There is scope there in the sense that LaVine could be a top point guard defender, an unstoppable ball handler in transition and a solid-enough handler in the half court, but it's not optimum. LaVine should be let loose as a scorer, and while any point guard can be a scorer, it doesn't fit all to be so.
At his best, LaVine is running the lane all day, cutting off the ball, spotting up and committing himself to a pesky defensive game. That is all more befitting of a two guard. Defensively, LaVine's athleticism makes him projectable - his fundamentals, stance, footwork and effort all need work and consistency, but there is again something to work with. If he can defend the quickest opposing point guards, that's an ancillary benefit.
Ultimately, LaVine needs some work in all facets of the game. He needs to be much more effective off of the ball as he does not currently do much without it, and if he is to play with it, he has a lot to work on. There are instincts there, but they are those of a two guard.
LaVine is not raw, just unfinished, and moreso than most. His career can go many different ways, and that is mostly a good thing. Whoever picks him will have something to develop, to sculpt, to hone. And even if he doesn't develop as much as he might, he will have an impact on the court for as long as he has those physical gifts. It's not a can't-miss pick, but with the increased pace and space at the highest level, LaVine will be more NBA ready than he was college ready.