The Los Angeles Clippers are perhaps the best title-contending team in the NBA and are going to need one player, in particular, to step up to reach their ceiling.
The Los Angeles Clippers are most people’s favorites to win the NBA Championship this season and rightfully so. The Clippers boast a superstar duo that includes last year’s NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, alongside an MVP finalist from a year ago, Paul George.
George didn’t come close to James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the voting but he was an MVP finalist nonetheless, showcasing that he is coming off of his best season yet.
Those stars would be less important if they didn’t have as solid of a supporting cast as they do around them. The Clippers have the best sixth-man in the league in Lou Williams and a fantastic two-way player in Montrezl Harrell.
Let’s not forget that the team is stout defensively, with a closing lineup that includes both stars, Harrell and Patrick Beverley.
The most exciting era in Clipper basketball is upon us as fans hope to get that illustrious NBA Title that would finally give the Clippers the credit they deserve. They may be the best-suited team to get there but they do still have a lot of work to get done.
The Clippers are going to experience road bumps along the way and certain role players are going to have to step up their play in order for the team to be as good as it could be. Of these important role players, the one that can swing things the most is center Ivica Zubac.
The Los Angeles Clippers landed Zubac in an extremely one-sided trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, where all the Clippers sent was an expiring vet in Mike Muscala. Granted, the Lakers probably weren’t going to re-sign Zubac regardless but they still gave their cross-hall rivals a young center for free.
The Clippers were not shy in re-signing Zubac as the team gave him $28 million over four seasons, buying in on Zubac being the starting center for this era of Clipper basketball.
While Zubac has had some really high points and has looked fantastic at times, he still has a lot to prove. As a site that covers both LA teams, we can tell you that we have seen a lot of Zubac and there is still a lot more to see.
Zubac had a great stretch with the Lakers where all of a sudden he was being found more and more often by LeBron James. There was a stretch from mid-December to the time he got traded where he was averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game with the Lakers.
The battle of L.A. between the Lakers and Clippers is always talked about throughout the NBA. Heading into the 2019-20 season, the two Los Angeles teams are very good on paper, but which team will ultimately be crowned the kings of L.A.?
Let’s face it, both Los Angeles teams made blockbuster trades this offseason, and added much-needed help to both rosters.
It helps to have LeBron James, but who will help him win more games? The Los Angeles Lakers went on and traded for arguably the best center in the league, Anthony Davis. They also went out and got Danny Green, who can help the Lakers with his on-ball defense, and his ability to shoot from the perimeter.
The Lakers also signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal, but unfortunately, his season is expected to be cut short due to a torn ACL – he may or may not return this season. Knowing the severity of this injury, the Lakers went out signed the 15-year vet, Dwight Howard. I believe that Dwight Howard will be a factor this season. He’s been around the league for a while, but I feel like this is his time to prove that he still belongs.
He returns back to L.A, but in a very different situation. Howard is an eight-time NBA All-Star and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
The Los Angeles Clippers are, by many, the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals, and to no surprise with their offseason pick ups. The Clippers traded for Paul George and signed free agent Kawhi Leonard, which makes them one of the best duos in the league.
Vegas has them (+350) right now and were at 16-1 odds before they added Kawhi and PG. The Clippers also have a deep bench and could prove to be the x-factor in winning the title. Players like Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Landry Shamet, can prove to the league that the Clippers have what it takes to win, from top to bottom.
Let’s grade both teams:
LAL: B+, LAC: A-
The Lakers upgraded their defense with Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard, but I think getting Danny Green, and having role players that can defend, is a big plus. Not to mention, they still have LeBron James leading them on both ends of the court. Their shooting isn’t as good as the Clippers, but having LeBron and AD running the offense can prove to be beneficial.
The Clippers now have leaders in Kawhi and PG, so their defense improves tremendously. The question still remains if they can protect the rim. We will continue to see if this poses a problem throughout the year. I believe their shooting takes them to another level this year because of the additions they acquired.
PG and Kawhi, have been really good from the outside. Kawhi is shooting 49 percent in his career, and George is shooting 43 percent for his career and took 10 3’s a game last year with the Thunder. Role players like Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley can help them with their scoring this season.
Both teams are going to be fun to watch this year. Look for highlight plays throughout the season. Right now, I believe the Los Angeles Clippers are slightly better than the Lakers. I can’t wait for what both teams have in store for all of us.
Zubac continued his solid play with the Clippers, averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. For someone that will probably give way to Montrezl Harrell a lot, those numbers are not too shabby.
However, they are not worth $28 million and the Clippers are likely hoping that Zubac can take that next step. Quite frankly, Zubac is still very inexperienced and unproven as a starting NBA center. The Clippers took a high-priced flier out on a young center, hoping he can blossom into what they think he can be.
Just look at last year’s playoffs to see where Zubac is and how the Clippers think of him. Zubac didn’t really play much despite coming up against a smaller Golden State Warriors team as he played just under 39 minutes in six games.
Some will point to his Game 3 performance, where he dropped 18 points and 15 rebounds in 17 minutes as a counterpoint. However, that game was a blowout 27-point loss where Zubac didn’t score his first basket until it was already 115-79.
Zubac has to prove that he can keep up in a playoff series as the Clippers’ size and depth would take a massive hit if he is viewed as unreliable in the playoffs. That is especially a problem considering the teams and players they might have to play.
The Utah Jazz have Rudy Gobert, the Denver Nuggets have Nikola Jokic, the Los Angeles Lakers have Anthony Davis, even the Houston Rockets have Clint Capela. That size difference will become a huge advantage for any of those teams if the Los Angeles Clippers have to task Montrezl Harrell to be at center for longer than he should be.
So when you are watching the Los Angeles Clippers this season, make sure to keep an eye on Ivica Zubac. He still has a lot to prove in this league, because like it or not, he is still an unproven asset.