After a few quiet seasons with the Lakers, 7-foot big man Ivica Zubac has found his niche with the Clippers.
While not a star by any means, Zubac has become an important rotational player for L.A., providing rim protection and rebounding. Still, despite his impact, the Clippers may use him as a trade chip for another player: Aaron Baynes of the Phoenix Suns.
Baynes is believed to be a prime target for the Clippers. Zubac's four-year, $28.5 million salary would work straight-up for the Phoenix center, but the Suns may not want to take on a long-term salary for a true center to back up Deandre Ayton.
"They would need a third team," one Eastern Conference executive said.
Also, the Suns (13-20) are believed to be seriously focused on making a playoff run, just one game behind the eighth-place San Antonio Spurs (13-18). Moving Baynes at the deadline would be more of a possibility if they fell out of the race before February.
Baynes is currently in the midst of his best season as a pro. Averaging career highs in points (12.6), rebounds (5.6), and field goal percentage (52%), he is among the top candidates for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
His stretch-five classification would help the Clippers improve on the offensive end. He would be an upgrade over the more traditional game of Zubac.
It will be interesting to see if they can pull it off before the end of February's annual trade deadline.