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Bull Market for a Bear

Jan. 13, 2014
Jan. 13, 2014

Table of Contents
Jan. 13, 2014

LEADING OFF
GOLF PLUS
THE MAIL
BCS CHAMPIONSHIP 2014
The MMQB
The Wizard And the Giant

Bull Market for a Bear

High-flying Bruins guard Zach LaVine has worked his way into the lottery discussion

BIG BOARD

This is an article from the Jan. 13, 2014 issue

A PERIODIC LOOK AT SOME OF THE MOST INTRIGUING RISING STARS

In a ballyhooed class of baby-faced NBA prospects, in which Wiggins, Parker and Randle have achieved one-name status, a few sleepers have slipped through the cracks. Take Zach LaVine. Three months ago he was unknown. A skinny 6'4" guard out of Bothell (Wash.) High, LaVine wasn't a McDonald's All-American, was barely in the upper half of most credible top 100 lists and wasn't on any NBA team's radar. Now he is UCLA's third-leading scorer (12.2 points per game off the bench at week's end), a freakishly athletic two guard who could play his way into the lottery next June. "He's the fastest guard I've seen run baseline to baseline, and he jumps as high as Gerald Green," says one NBA scout. "His athleticism is off the charts."

LaVine has always been athletic: A quick YouTube search reveals dozens of clips of him unleashing highlight-reel stuffs, including his winning performance at the 2013 high school Ballislife dunk contest and a breakaway windmill jam in a nationally televised game at Missouri. But at UCLA, LaVine has also displayed a finesse game. He is connecting on 44.0% of his threes (and is third among Pac-12 guards with an overall field goal percentage of 54.9) while showcasing an effective catch-and-shoot game and one-dribble pull-up jump shot. "Every so often he mixes in one of those moves that makes you sit up and say, 'Wow,' " says a Western Conference general manager. "Dunking will get him on SportsCenter. Diverse scoring will get him to the NBA."

Most NBA executives agree: If LaVine declares for the draft, he will be a first-round pick. "I'd slot him at 15 to 20 right now," says the scout. "Obviously there is room to grow, too."

Still, the consensus is that LaVine would benefit from a little more seasoning. There are holes in his half-court game—"I don't see him breaking people down off the dribble yet," says the scout—and another year developing his fundamentals under Bruins coach Steve Alford would significantly improve his stock. "He needs to learn how to play," says the scout. "He's only playing 25 minutes a game. There's a huge talent there. He just needs time to develop."

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (LAVINE)THE RIGHT STUFF LaVine first attracted attention for his dunking prowess, but he's shown a well-rounded game as the sixth man for UCLA, which was sailing along at 11--2 at week's end.PHOTOJEFF MOFFETT/ICON SMI (EMBIID)PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ROBINSON)PHOTODUANE BURLESON/GETTY IMAGES (PAYNE)PHOTOEVAN PIKE/CSM/LANDOV (MCADOO)PHOTOA.J. MAST/ICON SMI (VONLEH)FIVE PHOTOS