Cleveland Cavaliers: Grading Ante Zizic’s 2019-20 play thus far

Cleveland Cavaliers big Ante Zizic shoots. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Ante Zizic shoots. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Ante Zizic, Cleveland Cavaliers
New Orleans Pelicans big man Zion Williamson gets behind center Ante Zizic (#41) and the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Taking a look at Zizic’s defensive play

The defensive end is not Zizic’s forte.

Though he’s alright when it comes to defensive rebounding, he’s far from in the realm of Thompson or Kevin Love, and despite his frame and 7-foot-3 wingspan, Zizic is not a rim protector. His post-up defense is okay, but has seemed to have taken a step back this season, likely due to him being limited in terms of availability.

Plus, him not being able to switch out at all in pick-and-roll coverage against perimeter ball-handlers to contest and/or contest spot-up players when needed as a rotator is a bad combination. Zizic having a defensive rating of 108.1 is not really indicative of what he’s brought for Cleveland defensively, or rather, has not, and that rating is mostly due to Zizic playing sparingly and some in garbage time.

When playing against formidable opponents in meaningful stretches, Zizic hasn’t had an impact on the defensive end much individually, and unlike Larry Nance Jr. or Henson before, Zizic hasn’t affected outings much as a rotator/team defender to help out rotational perimeter pieces.

Related Story. Grading Larry Nance Jr.'s play thus far in 2019-20. light

Zizic not being healthy for much of the year again hasn’t helped him in terms of improving athletically when it comes to lateral quickness and/or fluidity to be more viable, though, and that’s tough for him.

Grading Zizic’s defensive play thus far in 2019-20: D

Zizic hasn’t had much of an opportunity in meaningful minutes to make an impact on the defensive end, but he clearly is not a player that helps in that regard, really.

Zizic is not able to play much against more athletic, faster-paced clubs that have rolling bigs that can get up-and-down, and Zizic often gets targeted in the pick-and-roll when he’s in the game in meaningful stretches.

That generally leads to way too open of looks for opponents, and I’m just not sure if Zizic can ever become quick enough to be a competent rotator when that needs be on the inside and/or out to shooters when that’s applicable. Again, though, the injury bug hasn’t helped, but can he ever really a near-plus defender in today’s NBA?

I don’t see it.