Nikola Vucevic: Center's Immense Potential Will Anchor Magic's Youth Rebuild

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIAugust 10, 2012

Feb 15, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) attempts to score as Philadelphia 76ers center Nikola Vucevic (8) defends during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Nikola Vucevic may never become Dwight Howard; in fact that’s almost a mathematical certainty. Asking him to live up to the dominance Howard has achieved in the low post, isn’t even fair for the youngster.

However, the young Montenegrin seven-footer can provide the Magic with some stability in the middle of their frontcourt in the wake of Howard’s departure.

The former first-round pick didn’t have an amazing rookie season for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011-12, but he did show glimpses of just what he can bring to the table for the Magic who will be looking to fill the void left by Howard down low.

In just 15.9 minutes per game, the big man averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. His 45 percent field-goal percentage is nothing to be amazed by, but he does play somewhat on the perimeter and adds a different dimension that Howard didn’t. A seven-footer who isn’t incapable of nailing a 17-footer—that’s definitely a change for the Magic.

Dwight Howard would be lucky to hit the rim at that distance.

But numbers and stats aren’t everything when examining Vucevic’s potential to succeed in his new home. The team is undergoing a total revamp after shipping Howard, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark away. 

They've acquired three future first-round picks in addition to the likely lottery pick they will get in each of those three years from finishing without a playoff berth.

The team is going into total rebuilding mode. Any other assumptions are wildly optimistic and not possible after cleaning house, as they did in this trade.

How soon will they see results?

It will likely take a year or two for a young nucleus to form and build a competitive chemistry in Orlando.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the best performances of Vucevic in his rookie season.

On February 17, the seven-footer shot 7-of-8 from the field, dumping in 16 points, snagging seven boards and rejecting one in only 19 minutes of action against the defending champion, Dallas Mavericks.

His best performances, though, came against the Boston Celtics and featured his most playing time of the season. In those two impressive games against the Celtics, the big man averaged 29.5 MPG, 14 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 1.5 blocks during the two-game stretch.

If he can rise to the challenge of becoming an everyday player for the Magic, he is certainly capable of playing at a high level for them.

The one thing Vucevic does bring that will draw admonishment from Magic fans?

Free-throw shooting. Their new center averaged just 52.9 percent from the free-throw stripe in his rookie campaign.

Sadly, hack-a-Howard isn’t going anywhere for the Magic. It’s just got itself a new title…


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