Clippers

Clippers Should Consider Starting Boban

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Los Angeles Clippers center Boban Marjanovic is one of the most bizarre players in the NBA. Hailing from Serbia, the big man is a humongous 7’3″, 290-pound behemoth. He has quite possibly the largest hands the basketball world has ever seen.

But aside from his monstrous mitts, Marjanovic (affectionately known as simply Boban) has quietly been an extremely productive player. He’s never averaged over ten minutes per game despite entering his fourth season in the NBA, yet his performance has been remarkable. Marjanovic’s career averages per-36 minutes are: 23.3 PPG, 14.9 RPG and 1.4 BPG while shooting 57% from the field and 78% from the free-throw line. These are All-Star numbers. It makes no sense for a player whose career net rating is +25 to be stuck as a reserve, and the potential reasons for benching him are not satisfactory.

Marcin Gortat is Not a Better Option

When the Clippers traded Austin Rivers for Wizards’ bruiser Marcin Gortat and conceded the loss of DeAndre Jordan, many assumed Gortat would naturally fill the role of quality starting center. But Boban posts similar, if not better, stats. He’s outscoring Gortat this year by five points per game despite playing almost half as many minutes. Gortat is shooting a putrid 39% from the floor, while Marjanovic is converting at a stunning 76% clip.

Though based on a small sample size, offensive and defensive ratings paint an even clearer picture. Gortat currently sports offensive ratings of 102 and 104. Boban also sits at a 104 defensive rating, meaning both have been quality rim protectors early. But his offensive rating is a double take-inducing 144! While Gortat, a 34 year-old declining veteran posts a PER of 10.1, Marjanovic is coming off the bench and notching a stunning rating of 37.7. In his most recent game against the Wizards, Boban grabbed nine boards in eleven minutes. Starting an older, less productive player over Marjanovic is ridiculous.

Montrezl Harrell is Not a Better Option

This argument is much narrower. Harrell, only 24 years old, is off to a tremendous start this season. The fourth-year center is averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 20 minutes per contest while shooting an impressive 64% from the field. He’s also been just as ferocious on defense as Boban, with a defensive rating of 96. Boban still has the edge with some insane per-36 minute totals, but those numbers are flimsy given how little he’s played.

What Harrell doesn’t have, though, is a sustainable trajectory. In today’s league, NBA teams can’t survive with a 6’8″ starting center. Every other franchise has a leading anchor taller than Harrell. His defense is also suspect; Harrell has never posted a defensive rating below 109 (not good) in his first three years. Meanwhile, Marjanovic has averaged a defensive rating of 100 over his career. He’s built to hold down the fort in the paint, unlike the less-imposing Harrell.

Boban is Not Today’s NBA Center (And That’s Okay)

The NBA bigs of 2018, in addition to maintaining a presence down low, must also be effective shooters. Marjanovic is no Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford, or even remodeled JaVale McGee. At 30 years old, it’s like the big man will never develop a three-point shot.

But that doesn’t mean Boban isn’t effective offensively. He’s a career 75% finisher within three feet, which includes some literal standing dunks such as seen above. Chris Herring at FiveThirtyEight noted that Marjanovic was at one point the most efficient scorer of all-time.

The big man can rebound remarkably, defend impressively, and put the ball in the hoop. The only major question mark is his endurance, as Boban is extremely large and unathletic. But for the Clippers, there’s no major harm in taking a chance on a player who historically has been a huge positive. The Serbian Sensation could be the key to an LA postseason berth.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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