LeBron James' debut season with the Los Angeles Lakers didn't go as planned. James missed considerable time due to a groin injury, and the Lakers, in desperation mode to bolster the team's shooting, traded away promising third-year center Ivica Zubac (along with Michael Beasley) in exchange for Mike Muscala.
It's safe to say that that trade has blown up in the Lakers' faces.
Ivica Zubac recently dropped the best game of his career to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to victory over the Indiana Pacers. Zubac tallied 31 points and 29 rebounds, almost posting the NBA's first 30-point, 30-rebound game since Dwight Howard accomplished the feat in 2018. And LeBron James, along with Kyle Kuzma, couldn't help but gush over their former Lakers teammate's dominant performance.
“FACTS!!! So underrated. ZUUUUUUUUU 🗣️🗣️🗣️🗣️🗣️,” James wrote, in response to Kuzma's tweet.
Zubac may not be underrated for long if he keeps up his solid play over the course of the season. The Clippers, with only Ivica Zubac and Moses Brown as the “traditional” centers in their roster, have relied heavily on the 25-year old big man to carry the team on the interior. Through 21 games, Zubac is averaging 10.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks, proving his worth as one of the best rim protectors in the entire association.
While the Lakers ended up trading Zubac – to the Clippers no less – for a spare part who only played in 17 games for the purple and gold, it's not as if that trade altered the course of the franchise.
The very next season, the Lakers, fresh off acquiring Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, won the 2020 NBA championship, thanks in large part to the continued elite play of LeBron James. JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard ended up being a solid center pair anyway, effectively replacing Zubac in the process.
Nevertheless, it's good to see LeBron James celebrate the achievement of his former teammate even if he and Ivica Zubac are now intracity rivals on the court.