The third-year center has gotten very little opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Ivica Zubac is a name worth learning.
Ever since the Anthony Davis Doomsday Clock got so close to midnight, there’s been incessant whispering about how the Los Angeles Lakers would attempt to pry Davis away from the New Orleans Pelicans with their young core.
That young core is generally assumed to be made up of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. There’s a fifth member, though, even if he’s almost never mentioned as such: Ivica Zubac.
Zubac has had some really strong showings scattered through his short career, and NBA Twitter memed him almost instantly. If you search “Zubac statue” on Twitter, once you get past all of the jokes about trading everybody and the Shaq statue for Davis you’ll see plenty of folks pleading for an Ivica Zubac statue outside of Staples Center.
It’s fun that people know Zubac, but it’s almost cheating the young big man out of actual analysis by just saying he should be immortalized as a Laker legend after every nice dunk or double-double. There’s more than memes happening when Zubac is on the floor for Los Angeles.
Since he gets scattered minutes Zubac’s per game statistics are quiet, but he’s averaging 20.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.0 blocks per 36 across 30 games played this season. Four of those 30 games have resulted in Zubac double-doubles, despite him having played 20 or more minutes just 10 times all year.
Zubac’s impact is bigger than his individual numbers, as big as they may seem. With him on the floor the Lakers allow just 99.2 points per 100 possessions (their season-long defensive rating is 107.0) and outscore the opposition by 4.8 points per 100 possessions. No player with 100 minutes or more has made Los Angeles better than Zubac, as per net rating. Without him, the Lakers are 0.4 points per 100 worse than other teams.
Ivica Zubac might never get that statue outside of Staples, but he’s a legitimate piece. He doesn’t turn 22 until March, and he’s mobile for a 7-foot-1 center. Either as a long-time Laker or a trade piece, there is value here to be had.
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