Our exit interview series at 213 Hoops continues with a look at the 2022 season of Clippers’ starting center Ivica Zubac.
Years in the NBA: 6
Key Stats: 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 24.4 minutes per game, with shooting splits of 62.6/0.00/72.7
Coming into the 2021-2022 season, expectations were fairly high for Ivica Zubac. It was an absolute steal when the Clippers acquired him from the Lakers back in 2019, and he’s improved every season he’s been on the team. Tyronn Lue likes to use his small-ball lineups and one of the better Clipper lineups in the 2021 playoffs had Nicolas Batum at center. But Zubac was still a very integral part of the team.
The 2020-21 season was the first in which Zubac took some huge leaps forward as a passer and as a defender. He started showing an increasing ability to switch out on wings. He also took his scoring efficiency to another level at 65.2 percent. His overall progression last year was a big reason why there were high expectations heading into this season.
It can be said that Zubac met expectations this season. He’s firmly established himself as a starting center in the NBA. He put up career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots and his 62.6 percent shooting was the second-highest shooting percentage of his career. He’s become one of the better pick and roll finishers in the league.
He also has made incredible strides as a passer in the short roll. His decision making has vastly improved reading the defense and being able to figure out how best to attack it. In a league where traditional post play is a dying art, Zubac has remained relevant as an efficient scorer around the rim.
While Lue does like to go small, Zubac has improved his defense off switches to the point where in most situations it’s no longer considered a mismatch for the ball-handler if he is switched out on them. He’s one of the best rim protectors in the league and the interior anchor for a team that has consistently been among the NBA’s elite on the defensive side of the ball.
Future with Clippers
The Clippers have a deadline of June 29 to exercise their team option on his contract in what would be the final year of his extension that he signed back in 2019. There isn’t any scenario in which the Clippers don’t pick his option up. He’s the team’s best big man. He’s only 25 years old and still has room to grow. He’ll be a free agent in 2023, but if the Clippers are serious about remaining contenders, keeping Zubac around beyond this season is imperative.