Will Zach LaVine be the next Russell Westbrook?


They are both guards from UCLA, both excel in the open floor, both are versatile and both are regarded as superior athletes.

It is almost impossible to watch Zach LaVine and not think of Oklahoma City superstar Russell Westbrook.

The blog Canis Hoopus took a detailed look at both and found many similarities between LaVine and Westbrook.

"Surprisingly, the metics show that Westbrook and LaVine are a lot closer than anyone would probably expect. Westbrook only did one thing vastly better than LaVine in college (free throw rate) and had the same huge doubts about position and decision making as a draft prospect."

The most obvious similarity between Westbrook and LaVine is their athleticism.

Here is Westbrook:

And LaVine:

Like Westbrook, LaVine's athleticism will likely make him a threat in the open floor, and that's exactly how Flip Saunders is setting up his new offense.

The Wolves will try and put LaVine in a position to be successful.

FOX Sports Net reports that Saunders is calling for more fast break offense. The changes have already started with the players (including LaVine) participating in the NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas.

"It's very tough, honestly," said second-year big man Gorgui Dieng to FOX Sports Net. "A lot of running, and we just keep going. It's very hard."

With LaVine, last year's top pick, Shabazz Muhammad, and 2014 second-rounder Glenn Robinson III leading the way, the Wolves are showing glimpses of being a run-and-gun team.

The style allows LaVine to use his athleticism and has led to several electrifying dunks during summer league games.

But it might not be LaVine's athleticism that defines his NBA stardom. It might be how he uses that athletic ability.

Canis Hoopus says the biggest difference between LaVine and Westbrook is a negative for the Timberwolves rookie to overcome. It comes with how the two get to the free-throw line.

"Free throw rate. LaVine's was awful at UCLA. He averaged just 1.8 FTA a game to 7.8 FGA...a free throw rate of just .230. This is what's at the core of a lot of the gaps in LaVine's game, from the settling for long twos to the floaters in traffic. LaVine doesn't just take contact poorly, he often actively avoids it, either through crazy acrobatics or simply not driving in the first place."

Westbrook, by comparison had one of the best free-throw rate's at UCLA (.380). He now has one of the best free-throw rate's in the NBA (.480).

Westbrook has harnessed the ability, can LaVine do the same thing? Only time will tell.

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