When the Los Angeles Lakers opted to trade Ivica Zubac to the Los Angeles Clippers just ahead of the NBA trade deadline, it was somewhat of a head-scratching move. Zubac had arguably been the team’s best big man in the most recent stretch of the season and looked primed to hold down the starting job moving forward. Obviously, things didn’t work out, and there were a few key reasons for that being the case.
On the recent FnA podcast on iHeart Radio, Los Angeles Times reporter Brad Turner joined to speak about the current outlook of the team and their moves at the deadline. When the topic of the Zubac trade came up, he made a few eye-opening comments. Turner first revealed that a big part of the Lakers’ decision to move Zubac stemmed from the future salary cap situation.
But one interesting part had to do with JaVale McGee, who apparently was having some issues with his role and potentially not starting.
“… the Lakers knew going forward, if they’re going to keep all of this salary cap space, then we can’t afford to keep Zubac. They wanted him around, but they couldn’t afford to keep him on the team this summer. And they also knew, a small thing was, JaVale McGee started feeling some kind of way about not playing as much. About not starting, so now the feelings get involved.” Turner stated.
Turner also cites the team’s interest in moving Michael Beasley ahead of the deadline as a big part of the trade as well. Regardless, it makes sense that Zubac wasn’t going to be re-signed after the year and the Lakers apparently wanted to make sure to get something back for him.
JaVale McGee’s Decline in Minutes, Production
The drop in minutes McGee saw from early in the year obviously directly correlates to production, but it’s been a steady decline since the early stages. You can see the 31-year-old center’s numbers trending down over the months and this eventually led to some type of issue it seems.
McGee’s Averages by Month
- October (eight games): 27.1 minutes, 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 blocks
- November: 22.6 minutes, 10.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks
- December: 21.5 minutes, 10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
- January: 18.9 minutes, 9.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
In two games prior to the trade deadline in February, McGee played 11 and 15 minutes while posting lines of nine points with two rebounds and 16 points with four rebounds. In the three games after, McGee has played 30, 26 and 13 minutes, while scoring 38 points with 21 rebounds over the first two.
Ivica Zubac’s Outlook With Clippers
Although the Clippers are featuring Zubac as their starting center, he’s yet to top 23 minutes in any of the team’s first three games. There’s a chance his workload could be expanded after the All-Star break, but he’s produced well in two of the three games with his new team. Putting aside one tough showing where he was unable to do much in 15 minutes, Zubac has produced at a solid clip.
In 23 minutes against the Boston Celtics, the 21-year-old scored 12 points with nine rebounds and three blocks. Then in the final game prior to the break, he scored 16 points with seven rebounds, one block, and one assist in 22 minutes against the Phoenix Suns. Whether the Clippers opt to re-sign Zubac longterm will be a big question, but it’s likely they’ll make a push for a few high-profile free agents this offseason as well.