The NBA is most exciting when young stars are budding across the league. The talent pool is ridiculous in the Association. Some players are just waiting to sprout into the player they have the potential to be. It is best to take this subject by division since I want to pick a breakout player for every team. The Pacific Division contains the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings. Aside from the recent success from the Warriors, this division has been overruled by the great L.A. Lakers. They even won the championship last season and are looking to repeat. The Warriors and Kings are looking to retool their respective teams for a playoff run. While the Clippers and Suns made moves over the past two seasons to bring star talent to their cities to contend for a title. Though it seems like more of the same Laker dominance, this season should provide some competitors out of this division. The one thing all of these teams could use is some breakout stars to separate themselves from the rest.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ivica Zubac has spent his entire career in LA. He started as a late pick for the Lakers in 2016. After years of bench-warming with the Lakers, he was traded to the Clippers. Zubac has been a starter for the team over the past two seasons. For the Clippers, his role has been restricted to just a rebounding presence on limited minutes. While he did start nearly every game last season, Montrezl Harrell would come in off the bench for the Clippers and feature a bigger role in the team's overall gameplan. It restricted Zubac to being an average role player on a team with star-studded talent. Zubac did show his value every night as a reliable presence in the paint that did not require any plays drawn up for him to average nearly double-digit points and seven-plus rebounds on only 19 minutes a game.
This season, Zubac is moving up in the rotation and has a larger part of this team. Harrell, who took most of his touches and minutes, has signed with the Lakers and the Clippers signed Serge Ibaka as a replacement. Some people assume this will lead to more of the same for Zubac, but the difference between Serge and Montrezl is massive. They bring equal value but do different things. Trez is a more traditional big man who dominated the paint on both ends with strong and aggressive play. It contradicted Ivica, who, with more finesse than aggression, also predominantly operates inside. Contrastingly, Serge proved he is most effective as a pick-and-fade option for the team. He also is a great perimeter defender for his size. It will allow Zubac to be the only option on the inside but will let Zubac play more. He will be more involved in the pick-and-roll with Lou Williams and have more minutes to shine with the starters this year. I do not expect All-Star caliber numbers, but I predict an increase in his stats across the board and his efficiency.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan