The 2017-18 NBA season was a difficult one for Ivica Zubac, but is the young Los Angeles Lakers center poised for a bounce-back year?
Zubac didn’t have the sophomore campaign that he was hoping for. After turning heads during his rookie season in 2016 with his soft hands, finishing and shot blocking, Zubac regressed last season and didn’t appear to be a lock to stay with the team this summer.
With Thomas Bryant playing well in the G League, the thought was that the Los Angeles would likely pick up his team option while declining Zubac’s. But when the time came the opposite happened.
When push came to shove, the Lakers decided to stick with Zubac and part ways with Bryant. Nonetheless, the pressure is now on the big Croatian to re-establish himself as one of the up-and-coming young bigs in the NBA.
The Lakers will certainly need him this season. After losing Brook Lopez and Julius Randle in free agency, the team is noticeably thin at the center position. Only JaVale McGee, Zubac and rookie Moe Wagner having the size to be considered full-time options in the middle.
McGee, while talented in his own regard, has averaged just 10.3 minutes per game over the last five seasons. And assuming Wagner can handle major minutes battling the NBA’s behemoths in his first year may be overly optimistic.
While Lakers head coach Luke Walton will turn to small ball often, using LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, or perhaps even Michael Beasley at center, there will still be an opportunity for Zubac to earn minutes on the team.
It’s going to be on him to step up and seize the moment; if he can’t then his place in the league could be in jeopardy.