Celtics Rumors: Nikola Vucevic Among Top Priorities in 2019 NBA Free Agency

Megan ArmstrongCorrespondent IIJune 21, 2019

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic grabs a rebound during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against Memphis Grizzlies in Orlando, Fla., Friday, March 22, 2019. The Magic won 123-119 in overtime. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)
Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

The 2019 NBA draft is in the books, and the Boston Celtics are already reportedly onto their next move. 

According to The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania, the Celtics are viewing Orlando Magic All-Star center Nikola Vucevic as "one of their top priorities" once free agency begins:

Stadium @Stadium

After drafting Romeo Langford and trading away Aron Baynes, the Celtics are in for a busy summer. Live from the Barclays Center, our @ShamsCharania has the latest on Boston's plans, including their interest in Nikola Vucevic. https://t.co/cutfL9Ku4j

Boston's interest in Vucevic is likely linked to the expectation center Al Horford is leaving in free agency. A void was further created at the position when the Celtics traded Aron Baynes and their No. 24 overall pick to the Phoenix Suns during the draft.

Charania's report was preceded by one from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t Orlando Magic Daily) stating that Vucevic and the Magic are "motivated to get a deal done" with the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers looming as plausible landing spots if the two sides can't agree.

Vucevic is fresh off the best season of his career. The 7'0", 260-pounder posted career highs in games played (80), points per game (20.8) rebounds per game (12.0) and assists per game (3.8). 

Boston can likely afford to offer the 28-year-old whatever he demands after Horford and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving leave as free agents as expected. Marcus Morris is also set to become an unrestricted free agent, and Terry Rozier a restricted free agent.

Should Vucevic land in Boston, the Celtics will hope the progress he made as a defender continues as Horford was known mostly as a defensive asset. 

"Vucevic—yes, Vucevic—has emerged as a steadying influence for the Orlando defense," The Athletic's Josh Robbins wrote in January. "His individual improvement has fueled, and mirrored, the Magic’s improvement as a whole."

Largely in his career, Vucevic has been labeled a defensive liability.

If defense is primarily what Boston is seeking, it's worth noting that the team has "checked in" with the Houston Rockets about a potential trade for Clint Capela, according to SNY's Ian Begley

Vucevic or not, the Celtics are in the midst of an overhaul. Boston began its roster retooling by drafting Romeo Langford (No. 14) and Grant Williams (No. 22) in the first round of the draft.