Clippers vs Lakers: Who has the better starting 5?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers fails to get the ball past half court against Austin Reaves #15 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena on February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers fails to get the ball past half court against Austin Reaves #15 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena on February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /
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Ivica Zubac & Dwight Howard
Ivica Zubac & Dwight Howard (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Dwight Howard

2021-2022 season stats: 6.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 61.2 fg%

In all likelihood, Dwight Howard won’t be returning to the Los Angeles Lakers next season. The sometimes controversial big man played a salient role on their championship roster in 2020 but this past season, Howard provided little to nothing on most nights.

Unlike in years past, Howard is no longer the focal point of an NBA offense. On most occasions, his buckets come from a variety of hustle plays, clean-ups around the basket, and lobs.

At the age of 36, Howard has shown no interest in hanging up his sneaks. On the contrary, he believes that he has more to offer to the game and wants to return to the purple and gold next year. Bereft of any true big men, there’s a chance that LA could bring Howard back into the fold. Although his meager averages of 6.2 points per game and 5.9 rebounds leave much to be desired, Howard is still a hard-nosed defender, capable of banging down low.

Ivica Zubac

2021-22 season stats: 10.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 62.6 fg%

Although losing Kawhi Leonard for the entire season to a torn ACL was disheartening and watching Paul George on the sidelines for 51 games as he dealt with torn ligaments in his elbow was depressing, for Ivica Zubac, he saw it as an opportunity.

With more offensive and defensive responsibilities on his plate, Zubac shinned. Through 74 games this past season, Zubac averaged career highs across the board including points, 10.3, and rebounds, 8.5.

Not the quickest of foot, Zubac has an underrated back-to-the-back game. The 7’0” 240-pounder was a load on the block and scored almost every time he touched the ball, shooting 62.6% from the field.

Next season, Zubac won’t be afforded the same opportunities but when his number is called, he’s shown that he’s more than capable of providing the Clippers with top-notch production in the paint.

Verdict: Clippers

If this discussion had taken place roughly 10 years ago, it would be laughable. At the time, Howard was essentially the best big man in the league. An absolute load on the block and immovable once he planted his feet. At this stage in his career, Howard is a spot starter, incapable of giving a team much offense but will have his moments on the defensive side of the ball.

Presently, Zubac is the better all-around player. When given the opportunity, Zubac has the ability to score against various defenders in the paint while doing so at an extremely high-efficiency clip.

Final word:

Overall, the Lakers just edged ahead, finishing with a final tally of 3-2. Still, that doesn’t mean the Lakers have the better starting five. Sure, the Lakers have the sexier and more attractive names but the pieces on the Clippers roster fit together seamlessly.

We’ll make sure to check the tally on this one again once free agency kicks off and if either team makes any major changes.

Next. Ranking LA’s biggest Western Conference roadblocks. dark