Our staff roundtable grades continue with a look at Ivica Zubac, the longest tenured player on the 2022 Clippers team.
Shapan Debnath: B+
Zu made some quiet strides in his game this year, featuring career highs in PPG/RPG at 10.3/8.5, and he improved in both those categories in his per36s as well this year compared to last year. Zu also had more double doubles this year than in the last 2 years combined. He was featured more on offense, punished some smaller lineups, had a career game against the league MVP, maybe slightly improved in his short roll game, and has continued to be an impact player on the glass and on defense. Zu is improving about as well as you could expect him to improve and he’s going to have contract discussions this summer, but a major question will remain where his price tag will be for a guy who often may be on the bench in big moments in the playoffs as the league, with some exceptions, moves away from traditional 7 footers.
Ralston Dacanay: A-
Back in September, I wrote in our ’21-’22 player season preview series that Ivica Zubac was the Clipper starter with the least amount of adjustments needed to be made with his role. Individually, Zubac mostly needed to just pick up right where he left off, cover up more of the common slip-ups on defense that occur nightly, and up the traditional big man stats that come with taking care of the dirty work. With the added usage and minutes, Zubac had a career-best year in all of his stats besides field goal and free throw percentage. At just 25 years old with one of the best bargain veteran contracts in the league, Zubac continues to be an excellent starting center for the Clippers. Zubac just plays with great activity on both ends, covering up plenty of mistakes with his rim protection, as well as making the right reads whether it’s hitting a cutter or finishing around/above the rim.
If we really want to nitpick about Zu’s game, it has to be the question marks surrounding his playability in the postseason compared to the Robert Williams IIIs and Al Horfords of the NBA landscape. With the way that the Clippers’ roster is currently constructed, however, in a world where Kawhi Leonard is back at full strength, this isn’t all that much of a concern to me considering the expected personnel options and coaching adjustments LAC could turn to.
Robert Flom: B
Ivica Zubac had a steady, workmanlike year for the 2022 Clippers, playing in 76 games (second most on the team) and logging over 24 minutes per game for the first time in his career. He maintained his sturdiness on defense, upped his rebounding and passing, and remained an efficient play-finisher around the rim. In a year where the frequently undermanned Clippers needed production, Zu stepped up the plate often. He rarely blew you away, but his reliability was notable in a Clippers’ season where that quality was at a premium. He might not be elite, or close to it, but he’s a solid starting center on a good deal that fits well with the team’s elite talent. There’s not much more you can want from a role player.
So, what grades would you all give Zu for his 2022 campaign? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!