At some point during the day on Tuesday, reports began swirling around that the Wolves, among other organizations, were lusting for Zach LaVine.
It began with DraftExpress.com’s mock draft update, and a quick spin around the Twitter machine will reveal that Wolves brass are apparently not alone in their infatuation with arguably the best pure athlete in the draft. It’s here and here, for starters, and Andy Katz reports that LaVine himself predicts that he’ll be selected at #14 by Phoenix.
Based solely on measurements from the combine, it’s easy to see why LaVine has become such a popular name among teams looking to strike gold in the mid-late lottery. He jumped 33.5 inches in the standing vertical, and reached 41.5 inches in the max vert. He is just shy of 6′ 6″ with a standing reach of 8′ 4″. His assist rate of 12.6% is good, considering that Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams both handled the ball quite a bit in UCLA’s offense. But it isn’t as good as some NBA teams seem to think.
The idea of having a 6′ 6″ point guard with exceptional athleticism and passing ability is understandably scintillating, but the results aren’t entirely there. It is encouraging that LaVine shot 37.5% from three-point range, especially since he launched nearly 6 attempts per game, but he’ll need to improve on his ability to draw fouls and finish through contact if he wants to be a consistent offensive threat at the ‘one’ — in other words, he isn’t exactly Russell Westbrook, which is what I fear the Wolves have themselves talked into.
It’s also important to note that Westbrook was pretty terrible in his rookie year, so we shouldn’t be all too quick to judge LaVine, either. But the college results, despite the hyper-athleticism and flashes of shooting ability (not to mention the alma mater), are simply not there for LaVine. Sure, his upside appears to be enormous. For a team that claims that they are planning on remaining in the conversation for a playoff spot next season, a slightly more polished prospect with at least one outstanding, translatable skill may be a better use of the pick — a Nik Stauskas or a Kyle Anderson, for instance.
Keep an eye on the supposed lust for LaVine. If the Wolves aren’t the only team that is onto him, expect there to be some movement from picks seven through twelve.
Then again, it could all just be teams blowing smoke, too. At this point, just over 24 hours away from the draft, it’s anyone’s guess.