Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vucevic Destined to be an All-Star

I swear to God I was going to post this before his 30-point, 21-rebound beast of an outing against the Clippers. I don’t know when it will happen, but expect Nik Vucevic to be selected to participate in an NBA All-Star Game some time in the future. Hopefully it’ll be with him still a member of the Magic. Better yet, why not this season?

Based on Nik’s historical accomplishments during the 2012-2013, and his 17.8 ppg, 13.2 ppg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg and 56.9 FG% through the first 5 games of this season, it’s just a matter of when and not if. Let me explain.

Nik Vucevic became just the 3rd NBA player in the last 25 years to record back-to-back 20+ point, 20+ rebound, and 5+ assist performances. He did it April 7th and 10th at Cleveland and against the Bucks. The other two players to do that? Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. Also, since the beginning of the '12-'13 season Vucevic now has five 20-20 performances. The next closest? DeMarcus Cousins with two. 

Obstacles in Nik’s way to getting the Eastern Conference All-Star Game invite for New Orleans in 3 months will be how many touches he gets on offense - which have increased infinitely so far this season - and overcoming well known names like Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, Brook Lopez, and a struggling Joakim Noah in the East. Al Horford, Marcin Gortat and even Spencer Hawes are threats at the moment. Even though the conference as a whole is weak, the competition at the center position is steep. So how does the Montenegrin distinguish himself from all of those centers? 

Right now Vucevic is averaging 1.4 more rebounds per contest than the next highest Eastern Conference big man (Al Horford). Vucevic has the 3rd-highest East center Player Efficiency Rating (Behind Brook Lopez and the surprising Zaza Pachulia). He's 4th in scoring among East centers behind Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, and Al Horford. Vucci Mane has the 2nd-highest defensive win shares (Roy Hibbert #1) and 2nd-highest offensive win shares (Zaza Pachulia #1?!) among East bigs which places him 1st in total win shares (7th place OVERALL). So you can see, he very well would get that All-Star Game invite which would be perfect timing for the 3rd year USC product as Nik is no longer eligible for the Rising Stars exhibition he played in against Andrew Nicholson last season. 

Again, it's extremely early and this post is following the best game of Vucevic's career. But he's a humble man who won't ever pump up his own name, so we the media need to do it for him and build the the well-deserved hype machine. 

I wasn't worried about Nik’s wasted Montenegrin EuroBasket experience in September, and if anything Nik is using that as motivational fuel. It’s not his fault the national team coach is incompetent and stubborn. Vucevic’s lack of playing time was not because of a flu or injury. Nor was it because he was not performing. Plus/minus is a stronger on-court measurement in international ball. Even when Nik wasn’t shooting lights out, his solid defending helped spark runs and confidence in teammates. That improved defense has carried over into Jacque Vaughn's blossoming system. 

When you have boatloads of European writers and even unbiased FIBA play-by-play announcers questioning why Nik wasn’t on the floor more at EuroBasket, you know the player isn’t in the wrong. But I view that frustration as a positive for Vooch in that he’s hungry to succeed even more in Orlando. It was evident at media day, training camp, preseason, and this present time. Vucevic's confidence is continuing to soar and he's not hesitating to demand the ball now. Especially when there were games last season that Orlando lost that they would've won if Vucevic received more touches. Feed your 23-year-old beast, Jacque. Especially when his worst habit is not choking at the free throw line, but being at times too unselfish. This is the ultimate team guy. Reward him. He's going to be an All-Star, let's make it sooner than later. 

Bottomline: Nikola Vucevic is the hero Orlando needs and deserves right now. He's the human mascot that embodies this shockingly decent 3-2 record to begin this '13-'14 campaign. It's all about health for Vooch and continuing to impress us with his expanded offensive game and active defensive and rebounding abilities. This Magic team being able to keep winning would be a massive boost as well. 

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