Despite various injuries to other players and changing lineups, Nikola Vucevic has continued his consistent play this season. He is the anchoring presence the Orlando Magic need to build on this hot start.
He will score 15-20 points, grab double-digit rebounds, swing the ball and shoot a good percentage from the perimeter.
That is the beauty of his game — consistency. Looking around the league it is tough to find a player as consistent as Nikola Vucevic.
This season has been no different. In fact, Vucevic is likely playing the best ball of his career as the Magic have raced out to a 6-2 start.
His numbers tell the story. The Orlando Magic big man is averaging 21.0 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game in 31.4 minutes per game. He is currently posting the 11th-highest PER in the entire NBA with 25.85, just below Luka Doncic, but above Stephen Curry.
Although the eight games so far this season are a small sample size, Vucevic has recorded 5 double-doubles and is posting the highest effective field goal percentage of his career at 50.8-percent.
All of this would be in vain if the Magic were not winning games, but they are. We knew the team wanted to focus on getting off to a better start and they have. The Magic are currently tied for second place in the East with a 6-2 record. Bolstered by Vucevic’s constant high level of play, the team around him flourished.
Aaron Gordon has been playing solid and looks to be almost back to 100-percent. Evan Fournier has bounced back from his rough performance in the bubble. And before his devastating ACL injury, Markelle Fultz was playing the best basketball of his career.
Fultz’s injury will be a tough one for the Magic to overcome as he was the best true floor general on the roster and had been leading the team with pace and playmaking.
It is safe to say that part of Vucevic’s hot start was due to his pick-and-roll game with Fultz. Vucevic would set a strong screen and then flare to the open space, where his shot has been deadly this season.
Pippen Ain't Easy
As we have seen before, this may not be as big of a challenge as you could expect. Now in his ninth season with the Magic, everything around Vucevic has changed, but his game has remained at a high level.
Part of this may be due to his ever-evolving style of play. He has continued to expand his game to the three-point line, adapting to the modern NBA. This season he has been knocking them down at an even higher rate, shooting 44.2-percent on 5.4 attempts per game.
The Magic hope this expansion will allow them to take advantage of his screening, spacing and passing better. So far it is hard to argue with the results.
Vucevic is taking almost three more attempts per game than fellow “stretch centers” Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic on just as high of a percentage.
Looking forward, the schedule will get tougher for the Magic. They have matchups with the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks all in the next couple of weeks. With the season-ending injury to Fultz and the inexperience of Anthony, Vucevic will need to be the steadying force during this stretch.
If he can continue his consistently high level of play, others like Gordon and Fournier should continue to thrive.
As we have recently covered, Vucevic is already among the best players in the history of the Orlando Magic. He is also one of the more underrated players in the entire NBA.
However, this may not be the case for long. If the Magic continue to win and Vucevic continues to be their driving force, the league can’t continue to ignore his game.