Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Ante Zizic. Follow the whole series here.
Heading into this season, it seemed like Ante Zizic would finally get his opportunity for the Cavs. Acquired in the now infamous Kyrie Irving trade, Zizic seldom saw time during his first two seasons - averaging 6.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks in 14.2 minutes per game. But, with Cleveland fully embracing the youth movement after hiring John Beilein as the architect and coach of the rebuild, Zizic, 23, seemed like he would have a chance to be part of the franchise’s future. He also would be playing for his future as well, as the Cavs declined the big man’s fourth-year option for the 2020-21 season.
The odds were stacked against Zizic to start the 2019-20 season. He was trying to crack a rotation that featured a stable of big men in Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and Tristan Thompson. It became even more difficult for Zizic after the Cavs acquired Andre Drummond at the annual trade deadline. That, and with Zizic being a traditional, plodding big man, he’s also a dinosaur in today’s game. Zizic was aware of the odds, trying to put in extra work over the summer to earn a spot, but it was all for naught.
The Croatian big man only appeared in 22 contests for the Cavs, and his numbers were all far below his career averages with 4.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks in only 10.0 minutes per game. Other than all the outside factors that were against Zizic, bad health also kept him off the floor. During the season, Zizic missed time due to an ankle injury, plantar fasciitis, and vertigo. It just seems like everything was going against Zizic whenever he tried to make the most of the opportunity before him.
After the Cavs declined Zizic’s option, it was already clear that his future with the franchise was shaky. When they acquired Drummond, it was a death knell for Zizic’s time in Cleveland. There will likely be plenty of interested suitors out there for Zizic, though. While he may not live up to the label of “Baby Shaq” given to him by former Cavs head coach David Blatt, he’s still a big body that can play defense and rebound. As long as he sticks to that, Zizic will still have a fighting chance to stick in the NBA. When given time to play, Zizic has performed well - posting 15 points in 12 rebounds in 25 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That chance for Zizic just won’t be with the Cavs. All good things must come to an end, Zizic as a Cavalier included. He’ll be an interesting footnote in one of the messiest divorces in franchise history, but Zizic’s time was otherwise unremarkable for Cleveland. Maybe he’ll finally get the chance to crack an NBA rotation with a new team neck season, but the odds will always feel stacked against Zizic.