LA Clippers: Future outlook/Predicting Ivica Zubac’s role next year

Ivica Zubac is going to have the chance to grow next season for the LA Clippers, and can preferably be leaned on without Kawhi Leonard in the picture.

Zubac had arguably one of the best years of his career last year, and should develop next season in Year 6.

Zubac may or may not start, but his role is still going to be similar either way.

Ivica Zubac needs to use his size to be a dominant force on the boards and on defense for the LA Clippers.

In the postseason, Ivica Zubac really struggled for the LA Clippers when he was being forced to switch onto athletic guards such as Luka Doncic. Ty Lue, however, found ways to adjust and get him in the right positions to succeed on defense, and we made a deep run.

Expect Lue to insert Zubac in lineups where he will only be guarding bigs, and continue to find ways to prevent Zubac from switching onto players who were quicker and could also shoot over Zu. Remember when the Mavericks inserted Boban Marjanovic to force and try to exploit Zubac on the court?

Lue found ways to gain size through adding Zubac while also keeping Zubac out of those bad matchups against Doncic. The same style will continue next year, and Zubac won’t be guarding any non-bigs next year.

Since that’s the case, he needs to absolutely control the paint on defense. That will be his role, and he needs to do it very effectively, as Serge Ibaka will be waiting to take his spot.

If Zubac can’t protect the paint, Ibaka very well can. Ibaka averages two blocks per game over the course of his career, and has the length to make up for him being a couple inches shorter than Zubac. Zubac’s size can only keep him on the court for so long, even though there are only a couple of centers currently on the roster.

If the Clippers have to go small, they will. Even last year with no Ibaka for the playoffs after Game 2, Zubac still had four games where he played under nine minutes. Those weren’t even games where Ibaka was healthy.

It goes to show that the Clips aren’t afraid to play without Zubac. That’s why he needs to be truly dominant in the paint, and he needs to build off the momentum he built on the rebounding end in the Western Conference Finals.

In Games 2 through 4 of the series, he collected 41 rebounds. Lue rewarded him with the most playing time he had all postseason. He played 34, 32, and 39 minutes, respectively in those games. He had never played over 21 minutes in the playoffs up to that point.

If Zubac rebounds, he’s going to play all the time. This isn’t a very good rebounding team. They were in the bottom half of the league last year when it came to rebounds per game, and Zubac led the team in boards per game (7.2).

On offense, Zubac needs to improve, but he totally should. Again, he’s going to be the only true big man out there whenever he’s in, and there’s only one on the roster right now who can take playing time away from him. He averaged a career-high nine points per game this past year, and as long as he can get into double digits, he’ll be just fine.

His free throw shooting was exceptional again last year (78.9%). His offense will come along. Zubac’s effectiveness lies in his ability to defend the paint, and rebound.