In just his second season, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic improved his stats by 7 points and 6.7 rebounds — three of the top-30 scoring centers in the league don’t even average that. The former USC Trojan averages 12.5 points, 11.5 rebounds for a truly underachieving Orlando Squad.
Vucevic has the advantage of being a 7-footer but his agility and shooting touch is almost incomparable. Not to mention it took Vucevic just 31 games in an Orlando uniform to pull down a franchise-record-setting 29 rebounds in a single game, a record previously held by a guy named Shaquille O’Neal.
The youngster has fouled out of four games this season and had a least five fouls in five more — you don’t nab 29 rebounds by being a patsy and hanging out on the perimeter. In fact, Vucevic may be the only European big man that doesn’t play like a European big man.
After the off-season mega-trade that saw Vucevic and Maurice Harkless sent to Orlando from Philadelphia, the Montenegran has become one of the best play-by-example leaders in the entire NBA. In his last 12 games, Vucevic failed to grab double-digit rebounds just twice and just seven times in 44 30-plus-minute games this season.
What’s more impressive about Vucevic is his ability to play above the moment and match up well — favorably, even — against some of the best teams in the league. For instance, Vucevic has a pair of 20-10 games against the Miami Heat this season — including the 29-board game. He even had a 20-12 game against Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls.
The only players that seem to have Vuc’s number are Zach Randolph, Boogie Cousins, Marc Gasol, Al Horford and Tim Duncan — real bunch of scrubs, right?
By and large, the Magic have a young core, led by Vucevic, Aaron Afflolo and Andrew Nicholson. Because of that, Orlando might not even contend for a playoff spot for a couple of years but at least Vuc should be able to lock down the Most Improved title this season.