Ivica Zubac: The Clippers unsung hero

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The roster of the Los Angeles Clippers is mostly constructed of slashers and shooters. Often forgotten is the big man in the middle for Los Angeles. Ivica Zubac is quietly in the midst of the best season of his career, thanks to all the attention the star wing players around him demand.

Still only 26 years old, it feels like Zubac has been around forever. The seven-foot center out of Bosnia and Herzegovina entered the league when he was 19 and has turned himself into one of the more reliable big men in the league. His 63.4 shooting percentage ranks seventh in the league.

“Forty-two minutes tonight, and we needed every bit of it,” said Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue after an 18-point effort by Zubac against the Utah Jazz. “We need his size, his rebounding, and his rim protection around the basket. He was huge for us tonight.”

Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac goes up to deny DeAndre Jordan of the Denver Nuggets during an NBA game played at Crypto.com Arena on Dec. 6, 2023. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Zubac is averaging career highs in both points (12.3) and blocks (1.5). On a team where the leading scorer could be a number of different players on any given night, Zubac is providing the team with a much-needed baseline. Zubac had hit the double-figure mark in 10 straight games before the Clippers game against the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 12.

With so much attention being paid to the All-Stars, Zubac is flourishing. He serves as a safety valve and can also put points on the board by simply getting putback buckets. His 3.2 offensive rebounds per game are in the top ten amongst all players this year, and scoring without demanding touches is invaluable to the team.

“Bringing the energy, being physical, taking the challenge, and just giving the effort,” said Kawhi Leonard of his teammate following a 111-102 win against the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Dec. 6. “Zu has been big for us the last few games.”

Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (40) has improved his play this season. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Zubac has always been a capable NBA big man, and he has carved out the perfect role for himself on this loaded roster. If the Clippers can stay healthy and make a deep playoff run, Zubac will play a massive part in the team’s success.

“I think I proved last year that I can do it at a high level playing in the post. I had a really good summer working on finishing with my left and right,” said Zubac this offseason. “I think I can help us when we are in a slump or guys are not playing. I think I can be someone we can go through a little more and help us score some points.”

So far, he has done just that, and he should only get stronger as the season goes on. Zubac will continue to build chemistry with James Harden and Russell Westbrook in the pick-and-roll game as they all start to get more games under their belt together. If Zubac can maintain this level of play for the entirety of the season, it just adds another element to a team with tons of options.

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