2018-19 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Nikola Vucevic

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 09: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic takes a shot during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on February 09, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 09: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic takes a shot during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on February 09, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings
ORLANDO, FL – OCTOBER 30: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic handles the ball against the Sacramento Kings on October 30, 2018 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Final Grade

A. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Even Nikola Vucevic’s biggest detractors cannot deny this was the best year of his career. He was a worthy All-Star and the clear-cut best player on the team.

The Orlando Magic created an environment that took advantage of all of Vucevic’s skills — his post-up play, his jump shooting, his screening and his passing. It was really the first time the Magic had featured Vucevic in this way, entrusting him to make decisions and lead the team.

He was the stable base upon which everything else the Magic built this year came from.

It is hard to imagine the Magic being successful in the short term without him. There are few players like Vucevic in the league.

More importantly, the offensive attention seemed to energize Vucevic in other ways.

Credit to Steve Clifford and his defensive schemes — not to mention the Magic being competitive to sharpen the team’s focus down the stretch — but Vucevic had his most engaged and active year defensively. He was not the classic rim protector that everyone wants at center. But he did a good job protecting the lane and keeping the Magic’s defense organized.

The Magic might feel like they have a long-term center option in Mohamed Bamba waiting in the wings. But Bamba does not seem ready to fill in as the starting center. He is not likely better than Vucevic is today. Vucevic was a deserving All-Star, after all.

That will complicate the decision on whether to bring back Vucevic. And for how much.

But Vucevic did a good job putting the Magic into these deep philosophical questions. He forced them to reckon with his legacy, his future and his play this year. And that is what every free agent should do.

Vucevic was underappreciated in his time in Orlando. But he did little to make anyone appreciate him. The team’s struggles and losing had a lot to do with that.

Turning things over to him offensively helped unlock his potential and show all that he could do. It was a lot obviously. The Magic finally burst through to make the playoffs and Vucevic deserves a lot of credit for that.

Next. 2019 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Jerian Grant. dark

What that means for his future with the team though? That is still a major question mark the team will have to answer this July.