Boston Celtics rookie center Ante Zizic was a bit of a disappointment during the team’s three game stint at the Utah Summer League.
He stated all three games and averaged a respectable line of 8.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 1.7 BPG, but there was also a lot of negative aspects to his game. Zizic looked very slow and confused at times, getting badly burned in fast break situations and allowing easy buckets for opponents. His offense was also a bit sluggish as he was averaging close to three turnovers per game, most of which involved him having the ball stripped away from him almost immediately after recording an offensive rebound.
This sloppy play hampered a lot of the excitement surrounding the 20-year old Croatian. Danny Ainge scooped him up with the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, a seemingly rare occurrence where Boston is using their own draft pick. He missed summer ball last year while trying to help the Croatian national team quality for the Rio Olympics, but then turned some heads while playing for the David Blatt coached Darussafaka Dogus.
Zizic averaged 9.0 PPG while coming off the bench for one of the top professional teams outside of the NBA and finished second in the voting for the EuroLeague Rising Star Award, which is given out to the league’s best player under the age of 22. He lost out to Slovanian shooting guard Luka Doncic, who is already the projected number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Past winners of this award have included Ricky Rubio, Danilo Gallinari and Andrea Bargnani.
His play over in Europe made scouts to start to question why the 6’11” big man was available so late in the first round. This created high expectations, which later led to major disappointment when he got off to a poor start this summer.
But the change in venue has appeared to help Zizic and he’s been a brand new player in the Las Vegas Summer League, helping the Celtics go a perfect 3-0 in their scheduled games before earning a first round playoff bye. He then led them to a 93-69 blowout victory against the Golden State Warriors in their first playoff game without Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Abdel Nader in the lineup.
All his numbers since the move to Vegas are better. Zizic is averaging 9.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.0 BPG. His turnover mark has also been slashed in half. The most impressive thing about all these numbers jumping up is the fact that Zizic is averaging just 18.3 MPG in Las Vegas after averaging 22.4 in Utah.
He’s been making his presence more known these last four games. In Utah it was almost like he was just there to clean up a few broken plays or missed shots around the rim on both ends of the floor, but he’s been a lot more active in recent games and his impact seems to get bigger and bigger every time he steps on the hardwood.