Magic's Nikola Vucevic on Trade Rumors: 'I'm Happy Where I Am'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2021

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) looks to pass the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic has become the focus of trade rumors leading up to the 2021 NBA trade deadline on March 25, but he's content helping the Magic through their rebuilding project.

Vucevic told Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel he knew it wouldn't be an immediate rise to the top when he signed a four-year, $100 million contract with the organization in July 2019:

"I'm happy where I am. When I re-signed with the Magic, I knew it was going to be a process and I knew we weren't going to turn into a championship team right away... It's unfortunate we've had all of these injuries. I think we are headed in the right direction, but we have lost two very important players—Markelle [Fultz] and J.I. [Jonathan Isaac]—for the season. If we were healthier, our goals would be much different and we could achieve much more. But that's just part of the journey. Unexpected things are going to happen."

Vucevic is in the midst of a terrific statistical season, averaging a career-high 24.6 points along with 11.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 threes. He's shooting 48.8 percent from the field, including a career-high 41.3 percent from three.

Given that success, it's no surprise he's generated widespread attention ahead of the deadline.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs all "expressed significant interest" in the two-time All-Star.

The question is whether the Magic, who rank 14th in the Eastern Conference with a 13-25 record, would be willing to trade their franchise cornerstone to embark on a more full-scale rebuild.

So far it sounds like the answer is no. Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Orlando has sent "strong signals" it plans to keep Vucevic.

The Magic do have some other players who could attract interest before the deadline. Aaron Gordon could be an attractive target for a contender seeking a high-impact player who could headline a second unit, while Evan Fournier has been impressive in between injury absences.

No one else can generate the type of return Vucevic would, though. It would be difficult to set up a complete roster overhaul, which typically requires cap space and a significant number of draft picks, without moving him.

So the Magic may ultimately decide to chalk the 2020-21 campaign up as one derailed by injuries and see what happens next year with a healthy roster before making any bold moves.