While pundits generally praised the Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Reggie Bullock ahead of the February 7 trade deadline, many saw the team’s decision to trade Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley to the Los Angeles Clippers for journeyman forward/center Mike Muscala as puzzling, given how Zubac had shown significant improvement in his third year in the NBA. As it turns out, the Lakers reportedly had several reasons to pull off the latter trade, including a desire to get rid of the veteran Beasley after a highly-publicized altercation with coach Luke Walton.
On Thursday afternoon, Los Angeles Times reporter Brad Turner appeared on the FnA Podcast to discuss the Lakers’ motivations for trading Zubac and Beasley despite the former’s obvious promise as a young, up-and-coming big man. As quoted by Silver Screen and Roll (via Jacob Rude of USA Today’s Lonzo Wire), Turner explained that it would have been too costly to retain Zubac as a restricted free agent over the summer, and too much of a burden to keep Beasley, who “had to be moved on” after a rough half-season with the Lakers.
“Some of it was because of the interaction [Beasley] had with Luke Walton after the Golden State game when he spoke out about what was going on and guys being selfish. He felt singled out,” Turner continued.
“So, based on that, the Lakers knew going forward if they’re going to keep all this salary cap space, then [they] can’t afford to keep Zu. They loved Zubac, they wanted to keep him around but they couldn’t afford to keep him on the team this summer.”
In addition to the above reasons, Turner added that Lakers starting center JaVale McGee had apparently become upset about losing playing time to Zubac, who played well in the starting lineup while McGee was out due to a bout with pneumonia.
As opined by Silver Screen and Roll, the trade doesn’t make much sense on the surface, as Zubac had established himself as a better starter than McGee, and was essentially being traded for an “underperforming big” in Muscala. On the other hand, the publication added that the Lakers might have been slightly justified in making the move, as the team has long been reported to be eyeing any one of several highly-touted free agents as potential signees during the 2019 offseason. But even with that in mind, Silver Screen and Roll pointed out that the Lakers only ended up saving about $1 million in salary cap space by trading Zubac.
While the Clippers ultimately waived Michael Beasley following the trade with the Lakers, Ivica Zubac has put up solid numbers for the team in three games as their new starting center. Per Basketball-Reference, the 21-year-old Croatian has averaged 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 20 minutes per game since joining the Clippers.
Meanwhile, Mike Muscala has played just one game for the Lakers since the trade, having scored eight points in 13 minutes in the team’s 143-120 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers last Sunday, per ESPN.