LA Clippers: Ivica Zubac Should Be in the Starting Lineup

Most players for the LA Clippers are having a quality start to the season. For Ivica Zubac, it’s been a tough beginning, and a starting spot could help him.

For the LA Clippers, it’s been an up and down start to the season, but definitely more up than down. The one guy who hasn’t really seemed to adjust to the new season is our backup center, Ivica Zubac.

With the signing of Serge Ibaka, Zu has been relegated to a reserve role, and it’s not suiting him so well. The advanced metrics say that he’s not able to be a positive defender in his role, and the eye test backs it up. He’s getting shredded in the pick and roll, and his rim protection has taken a dive. Zubac is allowing a field goal percentage of 65.1% from within 6 feet – good for third worst on the team, ahead of only Daniel Oturu and Terance Mann.

His work on the boards has plummeted too. Last season, Ivica Zubac had a Rebound Percentage of 21.3%, meaning he collected a little over 1 out of every 5 rebounds while he was on the floor. This season that has dropped all the way to 13.5%.

When you watch the games, you pretty quickly see the culprit behind that drop. He’s being pushed more out of his spots and boxed out, and when he does get in position, he’s having trouble getting his hands around the ball and actually securing the rebound.

My proposition is that, despite the drop in his performance, the answer is not to reduce his time on the court, but instead to insert him into the starting lineup. Get him more run with Kawhi, PG, Batum and Beverley.

He’s still a young center, and anchoring a defense from the center position takes a long time to learn. It’s pretty clear that he’s still actively thinking about what to do at times, rather than trusting his defensive instincts. When he’s playing behind some combination of Lou, Reggie and Luke? That extra split second of thinking is too much.

Asking a young guy to not only anchor a defense, but anchor a bench unit that’s been atrocious on defense? That’s asking a ton of him, and he is just not ready for it yet. That’s nothing against Zubac, it’s just that he’s being asked to do far too much.

Let Ibaka, who has much more experience than Zu and knows better where to be, play the 5 in some of those bench lineups. That will let Zubac sit back and have a much more defined role behind the solid defense of our starting lineup. Plus, he won’t have to cover for as many mistakes, and he can focus more on the fundamentals of playing defense as a center.

Zu’s having a rough time, but he’s still incredibly important to our success this season. Getting him back in form is imperative, and the way to do that will be to give him an easier defensive assignment on the starting unit.