Is Nikola Vucevic a Cornerstone for the Orlando Magic to Build Around?
He's a walking double-double machine, averaging 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game through the mid-point of the season.
While Vucevic's production is impressive, it certainly raises the question of whether it is because of his raw talent or because of the Magic's lack of talent on their roster.
Is the seven-foot big man from Switzerland a product of a bad team, or is he a franchise-caliber center for a team that is certainly in "rebuilding mode?"
Thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats, the Magic aren't the worst team in the NBA. But they are certainly close to it, which means they will most likely be the proud owners of a high lottery pick in this year's draft.
With talented big men like Kentucky's Nerlins Noel, Maryland's Alex Len, UNLV's Anthony Bennett and Indiana's Cody Zeller adding serious depth to this year's draft class, it's quite possible the Magic could be looking at a dynamic frontcourt to build around for the future.
The possibility of a dynamic frontcourt for the Magic is certainly enticing, and it's something the Magic can entertain because of the potential they have in Vucevic.
While he's somewhat raw offensively, Vucevic has two qualities that make him a solid big man to build around.
First, he is tenacious and opportunistic on the glass. Vucevic understands boxing out and positioning on the glass much like Kevin Love, and it seems like whenever a shot goes up, Vucevic is finding the best spot to be in to give him a legitimate shot at grabbing a rebound.
You can't average nearly 3.5 offensive rebounds per game without having a knack for the glass, and that's exactly what Vucevic has.
He's a poor man's Kevin Love on the glass, and that's quite an honor for the second-year man out of USC. Being ranked fourth overall with 11.2 rebounds per game shows just how impressive of a rebounder Vucevic truly is.
Finally, Vucevic is also a force to be reckoned with on defense, currently averaging 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals per game.
He understands defensive placement as well as you could expect a second-year player to, and when he's not blocking shots, he's impacting the game by simply being an intelligent defender in the paint.
There's no doubt that Vucevic needs to improve a lot of things to be a franchise center, like adding some more advanced post moves to his game while also adding efficiency to his mid-range jumper.
Vucevic can certainly shoot the ball, but as he adds more consistency to his jumper he will become more of a versatile threat, which will help the Magic become a more competitive team.
The ceiling is enormous for Vucevic, and that's why the Magic need to take the risk of building around him.
Worst-case scenario is that he turns out to be a consistent double-double machine while averaging around 30 minutes per game. Best-case scenario is that he becomes one of the NBA's top three or four centers.
Both of those options aren't terrible for the Magic, especially when you consider the youth the Magic have on their roster with Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, DeQuan Jones and Arron Afflalo.
Committing to Vucevic as the foundation for their future is a move that will take time to reap the reward. But in the long run, it's the right move to make because true big men that can average double-doubles are hard to come by.
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