NBA First Half Awards
With the season just over halfway done, let's look at the major awards. Feel free to disagree but it's James Hardens world right now and we're just living in it.
The Los Angeles Lakers ended their losing streak Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. A key player in that game happened to be Ivica Zubac. He dominated the paint all night long and deserves more minutes.
Zubac was plugged into the starting center position after JaVale McGee came down with an illness. Zubac did not disappoint. He had 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in thirty-two minutes. The Pelicans had no answer for him all night.
When Zubac scored, it opened the floor for everyone. LeBron James had an easy floor game that night with 12 assists. If he wasn’t driving to the basket, he was dropping the ball off to Ivica for an easy two points.
Prior to the phenomenal performance, he has proven to be a high field goal percentage. In his last three appearances, he’s shot at least seventy-five percent from the field or better. That kind of output only confirms why the Lakers drafted him in the first place.
Ivica played hoops in Croatia at age 19 before in the second round. The scouts viewed him a player that prides himself in establishing a back to the basket post-game and being a rim protector. Not many people knew who he was, but the Lakers were excited about him.
The Lakers have been looking for another person to score and defend and that’s exactly what Zubac does. No one else on the roster gets easy baskets in the paint the way he does. McGee is more athletic but doesn’t have much of a post-game. Tyson Chandler is also another center who is more known for his defensive prowess.
Once McGee is healthy, it makes sense to keep the starting lineup the same. However, the Lakers should consider getting Zubac on the floor more often. Giving him only nine minutes a game is not enough. He should at least 20 minutes, maybe thirty if he gets hot.
Think about the San Antonio Spurs. When they play the Lakers, they constantly give LaMarcus Aldridge the ball in the painted area. Coach Popovich knows he is hard to stop and will keep feeding up until it stops working. The Lakers should do the same with Zubac sometimes. If he keeps scoring in the paint, keep giving him the ball.
Ivica has such a strong upside to his game. He’s only 21 years old and shown he can a valuable player to the Lakers for years to come. Hopefully, he doesn’t become a bargaining chip at any point of the season.