Schmitz: Fran Vazquez Open to Joining Orlando Magic Next Summer

The Orlando Magic could potentially sign Fran Vazquez, whom they selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, next summer, reports Brian Schmitz. Here's Assistant GM Dave Twardzik, as quoted by Schmitz, the Magic Insider:

"It's more open now than it has been in the past with Fran," Magic assistant general manager Dave Twardzik told the Sentinel.

After the Magic surprisingly picked Vazquez No. 11 — ahead of Indiana's Danny Granger — he burned and embarrassed the club with his no-show.

[....]

Twardzik said barriers have now been knocked down, to some degree, because Vazquez has matured and learned a bit more English.

Over the summer, a source familiar with the overseas market told Orlando Pinstriped Post that Vazquez's chances of joining the NBA soon were "35 percent and climbing," reasoning that the departure of Tiago Splitter, now of the San Antonio Spurs, from Europe made Vazquez "perhaps" the best center on the continent. The source also said Vazquez might be more motivated to leave FC Barcelona, his current club, if point guard Ricky Rubio also leaves to join the NBA.

Vazquez, now 27, has spent the last five seasons playing overseas. In Euroleague competition last year for FC Barcelona, he averaged 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in just 17.6 minutes per game while shooting an astounding 68 percent from the floor, according to DraftExpress. He has just one season left on his contract and, according to Schmitz, joining the NBA next year is a possibility. He says NBA teams have offered to trade for his draft rights of late, which makes sense, given the dearth of athletic, efficient bigs in today's game.

And indeed, Vazquez is nothing if not athletic. Synergy Sports Technology data show that 31.5 percent of his offense came off cuts to the basket last season, and another 21.5 percent came as the dive man on the pick-and-roll. He scored on 75.6 percent of his cuts and an astonishing 85.7 percent of his rolls. Even accounting for Rubio's brilliant passing, those are impressive stats. He's not another Euro stiff. The man can move.

Earlier this year, Vazquez came up big in FC Barcelona's preseason win against the two-time defending NBA champion L.A. Lakers. He tallied 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in 20 minutes. But he has a ways to go; he only managed 20 minutes because he fouled out.

Schmitz notes that the Magic "are up to their ears in power forwards," which is true. Coach Stan Van Gundy has a tough task in allocating 48 minutes a night to that position to Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, and Rashard Lewis this season, so there may not be room for Vazquez on next year's club. Then again, having Vazquez in their back pocket could enable the Magic to seriously entertain offers for backup center Marcin Gortat, another reasonably young, athletic big man. In July, GM Otis Smith estimated that 18 teams had contacted the Magic about Gortat last season.

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