It appears the Los Angeles Lakers are not going to cut Ivica Zubac, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Zubac, whose $1,544,951 million contract for 2018-19 is set to become guaranteed at midnight on July 30, appeared likely to be a cap casualty as the Lakers try to preserve the maximum salary cap space for their offseason pursuits of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but it seems he’ll be kept around.
The Lakers are planning to guarantee center Ivica Zubac's contract for the 2018-19 season, league sources tell Yahoo. Zubac had contract guarantee date today.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 30, 2018
Being cut to preserve cap space despite being on a cheapo rookie contract would have been a steep fall for Zubac, who went from goofy, lovable and promising fan-favorite to benchwarming afterthought in the span of a single season.
Zubac was soaring during a rookie campaign that saw fans fall in love with him and his array of post moves that allowed him to average 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game (averages that translate to 16.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes).
However, when Zubac had a rough showing in Las Vegas Summer League and failed to beat out Andrew Bogut for the primary backup center role during training camp, it was clear a sophomore slump might be underway.
Zubac averaged fewer points and rebounds while shooting a lower field goal percentage in his second season, and with the Thomas Bryant looking like a G League MVP candidate during his rookie year and the Lakers drafting Moe Wagner, the writing seemed to be on the wall that Zubac was going to the odd man out, especially given that the team was unlikely to keep three developmental centers on its roster.
Still, Zubac flashed enough promise that it’s not crazy to think he could be in for a bounce back season, so it appears that at least for now Zubac is going to continue to be in the Lakers’ plans. This move also makes some sense given the need for cheap help if their superteam dreams come true. Or potentially for salary balance in a Kawhi Leonard trade.
All salary info courtesy of Basketball Insiders. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.