Nikola Vucevic: I still believe I’m the starter

Feb 21, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers center Jordan Hill (27) defends during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers center Jordan Hill (27) defends during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s offseason acquisitions brought the center position into greater focus. But Nikola Vucevic still believes he is the starter without doubt

The Orlando Magic’s free agency acquisition of Bismack Biyombo raised a lot of eyebrows around the league.

The Magic had gone out and acquired Serge Ibaka in a trade to shore up their woeful rim protection — teams shot 54.7 percent at the rim against the Magic last season, the fourth worst mark in the league — and then doubled down with Biyombo a few weeks later.

The Magic addressed a major need, but also created a major question too.

Orlando now has Ibaka as that unicorn power forward to be a rim protector next to Vucevic and then went out and paid $17 million per year for a potential starting center. It should make the incumbent starting center feel a little uneasy.

Who will be the starter now? It is a question this site has asked multiple times already. Asking Nikola Vucevic who that person will be, the answer is simple.

Vucevic put it in no uncertain terms, he is the starting center for this team and Biyombo is coming off the bench. He told Sirius XM NBA Radio he expects to be starting opening night — or when Biyombo is first eligible to play since Biyombo is suspended for the first game of the season.

"“That’s how it was for me. I was starting. I don’t expect that to change. I think I have proven I am definitely a starter in this league and I believe one of the best centers in this league. I don’t believe there is any reason for me to come off the bench. I have spoken to the Magic about it. They know that. That’s no disrespect to Bismack and he proved a lot last season and had a great playoff. But I believe I will still be a starter and one of the main guys on the team going forward as well.”"

Vucevic said the Bismack Biyombo signing is a good addition to the team because of his energy and rim protection. He is the kind of player the team needed. And no doubt, the Magic needed help with their rim protection. Adding in Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo helped relieve that need.

But Vucevic said Biyombo is coming off the bench. Vucevic firmly believes he will remain the starter.

That part still seems very uncertain and hard to tell. There is a major logjam now in the front court and seemingly too many guys who could and should be playing that position. Eventually someone has to go, it would seem, as the team tries to cash in assets and improve the roster.

From the moment the Magic signed Bismack Biyombo, if not when they acquired Serge Ibaka, Nikola Vucevic’s future seemed to go into greater focus and get shrouded in more mystery.

For as productive as Vucevic is on the offensive end of the floor, his defense is still a major issue. Can he be a good defensive center with a rim protector behind him?

Judging by some of Aaron Gordon‘s comments, he believes just having an elite shot blocker like Ibaka or Biyombo will allow the perimeter defenders more leeway to put pressure. But the question is whether that will truly benefit Vucevic.

Orlando certainly has some options now when it comes to its front court. Perhaps Biyombo and Vucevic can pair together as well as Ibaka and Vucevic. But that still inevitably leaves one player on the bench.

Orlando certainly needs offense in its current group. And Vucevic’s shooting ability and scoring ability — 18.2 points per game last season with a 51.0 percent field goal percentage as largely a jump shooter — are incredibly important for a team that is expected to have its share of offensive troubles.

The best news is the Magic have the depth to have this problem. It is a good problem for a team to have ultimately. Competition should bring out the best in players. And the best player will win the job.

Vucevic should believe it is him. There would be a bigger problem if he did not believe that.

Next: Solving the center ordeal of Nikola Vucevic & Bismack Biyombo

When camp rolls around in October, Vucevic will have his chance to show the new coaching staff and the new players he is still their starting center. That is unless the Magic resolve to clear this logjam before the season begins.