Coming of age in Minneapolis in the ’80s and ’90s, I never fully understood the West Coast/East Coast “feud” in the hip hop world. I mean, we had Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Prince and Morris Day and things were just fabulous. I remember going to hard rock shows at The Quest in downtown Minneapolis and they’d usher all us young’uns out the door by 10 pm-ish, so the Prince-affiliated club could prep for its real bread and butter: the late-night weeknight dance parties. I’d walk out into the November frozen wastes that characterize the Warehouse District in Minneapolis wearing a band t-shirt and jeans, and step past the most fabulously dressed people waiting for their turn to use The Quest. I’d hop in my car and be home and in bed before their nights even started. Now, what does any of this have to do with Ivica Zubac, the 7-foot Bosnian who plays backup center for the Clippers? Of course! It’s the vague similarity between my midwestern accent mangling “Zubac” into sounding something like “Tu-pac,” which makes me ruminate on how the West Coast owns the narrative of hip hop and basketball. Tupac, the Lakers (also from Minneapolis, bee-tee-dubya), that guy who was drafted by the Utah Jazz and married Kim K for 72 days (Kris Humphries, also from Minneapolis, double bee-tee-dubya). ENYWHEY. I’m here trying to save your fantasy basketball team, so let’s see what I can do.
Ivica Zubac is the backup center on the Clippers, and he’s probably going to stay that way while Serge Ibaka is healthy. You know one thing Serge Ibaka hasn’t done since the 2016-2017 season? Play more than 28 minutes per game on average. It’s like he was on load management before it was cool. So, there’s time behind Ibaka on the court, and the guy who’s been grinding nearly 24 minutes a game over the last week is Ivica Zubac. Zubac is on the old side of 23 and has already spent six years in the NBA. When I was 23, I thought I was bold by going to Wendy’s at 11 pm and ordering chicken nuggets. Zubac, though, had nearly 120 NBA starts under his belt before Ibaka showed up.
Availability: Zubac is rostered in 37% of Yahoo leagues right now and was a last-round flyer in most formats. You can acquire him for a bag of flamin’ hot Cheetos that’s already half-eaten.
Rebounds: Here’s why you care about Zubac right now: He’s got four double-doubles in the last ten games, with two of his last three being 14-board and 16-board games. The top rebounders in the NBA are all rostered in most formats, while Zubac is 8th overall in total rebound percentage.
Win Shares %: There are a lot of times when real-world sports and fantasy sports completely diverge, and Win Shares is probably one of them. However, coaches pay attention to Win Shares, and the guy who is 4th in the league in win shares per 48 minutes is Ivica Zubac. The top three are Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Kawhi Leonard. So, if you want to look at a player who could and probably should be playing more, you can find that with Zubac. And, we’ve seen his minutes increase over the past week, even if his role as backup to Serge Ibaka is rather entrenched.
Usage: Around 15%, which isn’t bleh and makes you want to change the channel. His stat line is very volatile, but we’re looking at deep flyers with upside. He’s mainly a replacement for Ibaka and he most often plays with Paul George and Lou Williams, which leaves Zubac as the primary defender and rebounder when he’s on the floor. He’s not supposed to be the assists guy or the scoring guy when he’s out there. Nonetheless, he’s got a great True Shooting percentage of .727 and a nice 86% free throw percentage. He may not get many opportunities to score — and that’s by design — but he makes the most of those opportunities.
Fantasy Summary: If you’re hurting in rebounds and need a B-teamer for that category, Zubac is your man. He’s in the Top 10 for rebound percentage and is a plus shooter from all over the court. He’s got upside in terms of minutes and has an opportunity to reach 25-30 minutes on some nights. He’s available in almost all formats and has minimal acquisition cost, making him a low-risk, high-reward waiver wire pickup.
What are your thoughts on Ivica Zubac? Leave them down in the comments, and have an awesome week!