Ante Zizic was acquired by the Cavaliers from the Boston Celtics in the Kyrie Irving deal on August 22nd, 2017. A lot of fans are not familiar with Zizic as he is mostly known as “the other guy” in the Irving trade. Although he is looked at as a throw in, Zizic is actually the opposite as the Cavs requested that he be included in the trade. Cleveland had scouted him for the past couple years.
Zizic started his professional basketball career in 2013/2014 at age 16 as a member of KK Split in the Croatian Premier League. He played in only three games before moving to the Cedevita Zagreb’s junior national team playing five games with them.
In the 2014/2015 season he moved to Cibona Zagreb where he averaged 7.4 points per game in 25 games with the Adriatic League club.
His 2015/2016 season is where he began to catch the attention of NBA scouts. He was named the ABA League’s top prospect. Zizic averaged 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 26 games. He was also named to the European wide 3rd tier FIBA World Cups Starting Five Team of the 2015/2016 season.
Zizic was named MVP of the fourth week of the 2016/2017 ABA League season after scoring 37 points and snagging 20 rebounds in an October 11th game. He left his ABA team in December of 2016 to join his first Euro League team Darüşşafaka. He averaged nine points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Zizic was drafted 23rd overall by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. He signed with Boston on July 1st, 2017. His time with Boston was short as they traded him to Cleveland on August 22nd along with Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st round pick in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
Zizic has spent his first NBA season bouncing back and forth between the Cavaliers and Cleveland’s G League affiliate Canton Charge. In 18 games with the Charge Zizic is averaging 16.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. He game has steadily developed as the season has gone on and he has gotten accustomed to the NBA game. He has played a few minutes here and there with Cleveland but most of his work has been done in the G League with Canton. Zizic discussed the difference between the G League and the NBA.
“The NBA game is much different but at the end of the day basketball is basketball,” said Zizic. “The G League is faster than the NBA because of small ball and it’s a bunch of guards.”
When Kevin Love went down with a broken hand on January 30th it was thought that Zizic might finally get some minutes with the Cavaliers. Those minutes initially went to Channing Frye before he was traded and Larry Nance Jr. was acquired at the trade deadline. I asked Zizic at the time about his potential opportunity with the Cavaliers given Love’s injury situation.
“Right now we got like 14 guys so it’s really hard to get time with a lot of experienced players and I’m a young player,” said Zizic. “So I wait for my opportunity and when I get it I want to do my best.”
That opportunity came when Tristan Thompson suffered an ankle injury against the Denver Nuggets and it was announced he would miss two weeks. Zizic played 16 minutes against the Detroit Pistons and posted six points, six rebounds and blocked shot. He played solid defense against Andre Drummond and looked light years better then he did earlier in the season. He gives the Cavaliers a reliable backup to new starter Larry Nance Jr. while Thompson recovers from his sprained ankle.
I have enjoyed watching Zizic develop and improve game by game while covering the Canton Charge this season. His hard work and dedication is now paying off as he joins the Cavaliers rotation and shows he can be a valuable piece going forward.