The Cleveland Cavaliers made a big splash at the NBA trade deadline by acquiring two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons. Drummond is likely to excercise the player option on his contract for next-season, and general manager Koby Altman views Drummond as a long-term piece for the team. This means that Ante Zizic’s days are numbered, and he will likely not be back with Cleveland for the 2020-2021 season.
Zizic was originally required by the Cavaliers in 2017 as part of the Kyrie Irving trade. He was the 23rd overall pick in 2016 by the Boston Celtics, after spending three years playing professionally in Europe. Former Cavs coach David Blatt gave Zizic the nickname “Baby Shaq” after coaching him Darussafaka Dogus. High praise to say the least. Expectations weren’t nearly that high for Zizc when he got to Cleveland; the hope was that he’d maybe develop into a starter two or three years down the line.
Because the Cavaliers were trying to win another NBA championship, Zizic didn’t see the floor much as a rookie. He played in 32 games (two starts), averaging 3.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in 6.7 minutes. His 73% FG% was eyepopping, although it was never fair to expect him to keep that mark when playing more. He earned a significant role in his second season, playing 59 games (25 starts), finishing with averages of 7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.3 minutes. He shot 55% from the field; a far cry from the 73% the year before, but a solid number nonetheless.
This season, Zizic has played in 16 games, putting up 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 9.9 minutes. But he hasn’t played since January 11th due to what is described as a vestibular condition. Zizic had been experiencing dizziness and nausea, and is still on the mend. If he does end up returning, he won’t have much of a role, if any. Andre Drummond, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Larry Nance, Jr. are all ahead of him on the depth chart, not to mention Dean Wade.
Zizic just doesn’t have much of a place in the modern NBA. At 6’10” 254lbs, he has good size. But he’s rather slow, is not a good rim protector, is an average rebounder, and can’t switch onto guards, making him a defensive liability against smaller, quicker teams. Offensively, he can’t stretch the floor and doesn’t facilitate well from the post. It’s a shame, because his post game is pleasant to watch. He’s smooth with the ball, and has a beautiful up-and-under move. But his lack of versatility renders him effectively useless nowadays.
The team clearly doesn’t view Zizic as part of their future. He is playing on a team option this season that pays him just under $2.3 million. Before the season, Cleveland declined his option for next season, which would have paid him $3.8 million. There’s always the possibility that he is re-signed for a lesser amount, but the Cavs would be better off using that roster spot for a younger player with more potential.
It was unlikely that Ante Zizic was going to be a part of next year’s Cavaliers squad, but the Andre Drummond trade all but seals his fate. Constant turnover has followed this team for the past decade, and Zizic will be a part of more of that this offseason.