Among the six players the Orlando Magic acquired in Friday's four-team blockbuster trade involving Dwight Howard, second-year center Nikola Vučević stands out as an enigma of sorts. The Switzerland native of Montenegrin descent, who attended college at USC, made 51 appearances (15 starts) for the Philadelphia 76ers as a rookie and averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game, shooting 45 percent from the floor. He'll likely challenge fellow Magic newcomer Gustavo Ayón for Orlando's starting center gig.
For more insight on Vučević, I asked Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers, SB Nation's Sixers blog, a simple question: "What can you tell me about him?" Here's how Levin responded:
Vuce is a guy the Sixers pegged immediately coming into the 2011 Draft. They wanted him and even though some thought he was a reach in the middle of the first, they got him at 16. For a slow-footed, unathletic, middling rebounder, he had a decent start to the season. He was like a fresher version of Spencer Hawes, playing within himself and being in the right place at the right time. But then the season went on and Doug Collins insisted that Vuce had hit "the Rookie Wall," which seemed like it was by Collins' own doing, due to limited minutes. By the end of the season, he was completely forgotten about.
The rest of Levin's analysis and a few other observations follow the jump.
He's a capable basketball player, but he'll never be anything more than a backup center on a decent team. He's wholly lacking in upside, and he drew the short end of the stick of the backup big man battle with Lavoy Allen. I'm happy he's gone, simply because he'll get to play a bit elsewhere. His slow footwork will limit him from being a 4 and he's not strong enough to play the 5 yet. But he's a good glue guy and he won't piss you off too much. Maybe think a less tough Jason Smith. We certainly wish him luck in Orlando.
"He's a good glue guy and he won't piss you off too much." Certainly not a ringing endorsement, but not a damning one either.
The biggest flaw I see in Vučević's game is his inability to get to the foul line. Despite taking 52.3 percent of his shots within the restricted circle, Vučević attempted only 34 free throws for the entire season. His free-throw attempt-to-field-goal attempt ratio of 0.116 ranked among the worst in the league in 2011/12. Perhaps that's a consequence of being a rookie and simply not earning calls, but whatever the reason, his not drawing fouls severely limits his efficiency on the offensive end.
On the plus side, Vučević grades out as an excellent rebounder. His 16.8 overall rebound rate ranked third among rookies in 2011/12, behind only Kenneth Faried and Enes Kanter, and led the 76ers. Howard was the only Magic player to rebound more effectively than Vučević in 2011/12.
If Vučević can develop the physique of an NBA-caliber center and is able to draw contact more effectively, he should be a decent rotational big man in this league for quite some time. The 21-year-old already knows how to board at this level. Now it's a matter of learning and growing in other areas.
And, in case you're curious, the Magic say Vučević's full name is pronounced "KNEE-coal-uh VOOCH-uh-vitch." Sixers fans call him "Vooch" or "Vucci Mane."