Ivica Zubac, Timofey Mozgov battle for starting center spot next season

Mar 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) shoots between Los Angeles Lakers center Ivica Zubac (40) and guard D'Angelo Russell (1) during the first half at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) shoots between Los Angeles Lakers center Ivica Zubac (40) and guard D'Angelo Russell (1) during the first half at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

A statistical analysis of the 2016-17 seasons for Ivica Zubac and Timofey Mozgov keys a discussion of which center has earned the starting spot next season. 

Last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired big man Timofey Mozgov to fill a void at center for the 2016-17 season.

After Mozgov started for more than half the season, coach Luke Walton ultimately decided to cut the Russian’s season short in favor of 20-year-old rookie Ivica Zubac, in order to gauge the younger player’s potential going forward.

During his stint as a starter, Zubac impressed with his ability to produce at such a young age. These events pose an interesting question of which center will likely assume the starting position next season.

Ivica Zubac

Zubac has an impressive physical profile for his age at 7’1″ and 240 pounds, while possessing a 7’4″ wingspan, making him a threat in the paint both as a rim protector as well as a rebounder.

These physical tools were on full display in his impressive rookie campaign as Zubac averaged 7.5 points per game while shooting 52.9 percent from the field.

Additionally, the center also came down with 4.2 rebounds and just less than a block a game at 0.9 in the 38 games he was a part of despite only being on the floor for roughly 16 minutes a game.

Timofey Mozgov

Similarly, Timofey Mozgov, a 30-year-old veteran center with an equally impressive 7’1″ and 275-pound frame, is the most likely competition for Ivica Zubac’s  starting role at the center position.

Last season, Mozgov closely mirrored the stats of the 20-year-old rookie as he averaged 7.4 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game while shooting 51.5 percent from the field in the 54 games and slightly more than 20 minutes per game.

Comparison of inside game

When comparing these two athletes it is abundantly clear there are parallels to be made regarding their production levels on the court as well as their commanding physical presence in and around the painted area.

Both players are traditional big men as characterized by their larger statures. which result in less mobility and lateral quickness, meaning both centers seldom stray too far from the paint to guard players out on the perimeter, but rather gravitate towards the rim to fulfill their role as rim protectors and rebounders on the defensive end.

Furthermore, due to their shared lack of ability to convincingly play outside of the key and beat defenders of the dribble, Zubac and Mozgov create most of their scoring opportunities closer to the basket.

Of Zubac’s 238 shots last season, 131 were from less than five feet from the basket, and of those shots he converted 58.8 percent.

By contrast, 174 of Mozgov’s 328 shot attempts were less than five feet from the basket, where he had a field goal percentage of 62.1 percent, giving Mozgov the slight edge.

Comparison of outside game

When it comes to each player’s mid-range game, Zubac hit on 50 percent of his shots, albeit in a smaller sample size of 42 attempts, whereas Mozgov shot a visibly worse 42.1 percent this season on 95 attempts.

This hints at Zubac’s potential to stretch the floor if he can continue to shoot as effectively as last season while increasing his number of attempts.

Comparison of player efficiency rating

Moreover, an important statistic to consider when comparing these two center’s is their player efficiency rating or “PER” that measures a players per minute production. Last season Ivica Zubac had a better-than-league-average PER of 17, illustrating his ability to produce on the court.

Mozgov, on the other hand, accumulated a PER of 12.3 last season, which is notably less than league average and pales in comparison to that of Zubac.

Comparison of per 36 minute stats

Lastly, due to the clear disparity in per minute production between Zubac and Mozgov, it is crucial to look at each athletes per 36 minute numbers in order to decipher who would be more impactful for the team if given more minutes.

Ivica Zubac’s per 36 numbers are 16.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks while shooting roughly 53 percent from the field. Timofey Mozgov’s per 36 numbers are a  less impressive 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks while shooting around 52 percent from the field.


In conclusion, between Ivica Zubac and Timofey Mozgov, the edge seems to go to the young 20-year-old center Zubac, a.k.a. Zublocka. The Croatian is 10 years younger than his competition and would have room to improve with the young Lakers core.

Additionally, when looking at the stats it is evident that Zubac has a better chance of making an impact for the team as he is projected to average better numbers in key areas such as points, rebounds, and blocks.

He teases a serviceable mid-range game that Mozgov lacks while also boasting similar scoring efficiency in the post and a natural ability to send back shots and fight for rebounds.

For these reasons, next season it seems likely Ivica Zubac will command the starting position in the majority of games next season with Mozgov coming off the bench.