The Los Angeles Lakers once had Brook Lopez and Ivica Zubac on the roster at the same time. Now, they’re two of the NBA’s best defensive centers.
Lopez left Los Angeles for a one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks in July 2018. He admitted to ESPN’s Zach Lowe that he was surprised the Lakers did not pursue him harder to return for a second season. Much like Alex Caruso did, he said he “would have wanted” to return to Los Angeles.
Zubac was selected by the Lakers at No. 32 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. But on Feb. 7, 2019, he was traded to the crosstown rival Clippers in exchange for Mike Muscala (who played just 17 total games with the Lakers).
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Clippers never even called the Lakers about Zubac and “couldn’t believe” how he fell into their laps. It was a laughable trade back then, and it remains so to this day — especially with how well both Zubac and Lopez are performing.
Remember when the Lakers had both Brook Lopez AND Ivica Zubac at the same time & lost both of them for nothing pic.twitter.com/i1bVrjqbP9
— Shervon Fakhimi (@ShervonFakhimi) November 13, 2022
Both are excellent big men who would fit in well on the Lakers as relatively low-usage players that do not require the ball on offense but provide stellar defensive impact.
Worse yet, both are natural fives that would allow Anthony Davis to play at the four — where he would prefer to play. Davis, instead, has played out of position for Los Angeles. Lopez played for Lakers head coach Darvin Ham when he was an assistant for the Bucks, and both big men would do well in his defensive-oriented approach.
Even if neither was a long-term fit, they clearly had more value (even as potential trade chips) than Los Angeles was ever able to extract in return.
It didn’t work out for Lopez and Zubac on the Lakers, but let’s take a moment to marvel at what they’ve accomplished on the court so far this season.