The Orlando Magic are off to a surprisingly solid 5-7 start to the 2014/15 season. The team's won three of its last four games and is already just one road win shy of matching its total from the entire previous season. And perhaps no one player is more responsible for Orlando's relatively impressive start than center Nik Vucevic.
Vucevic has taken on a greater offensive workload than ever in 2014/15--his usage rate of 24.6 ranks first on the team and is up from his previous career-best mark of 21.8 percent--and he's responded with excellent efficiency numbers. Through Monday's games, Vucevic's 56.4 percent True Shooting ranked ninth among the 26 players averaging at least 15 field-goal attempts per game, according to basketball-reference.com.
And while Vucevic is still working on curbing his turnovers--as a consequence of his high usage rate, he's also coughing the ball up more than ever--he's absolutely made progress as a more confident and patient low-post player. According to NBA.com/stats, the Montenegrin is making two-thirds of his shot attempts inside the restricted area and has converted on 52.3 percent of his mid-range shots; both of those marks represent career-bests. And even if his mid-range shooting regresses, he'll still rank as an above-average, high-volume scorer on the strength of his post game.
And if Vucevic can ever draw fouls more consistently, he'll be an even more complete offensive centerpiece. Despite his size and tendency to play close to the basket, Vucevic has never earned many free-throw attempts, and indeed his ratio of free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts has dipped from .197 a season ago to .178 today. But that's a minor quibble, given the gains he's made elsewhere on offense.
Vucevic could always board with the best of them, and he remains in the hunt for the NBA's rebounding crown. Now he's adding more value as a featured scorer. If he continues to make these incremental improvements to his game, the extension he signed with Orlando before the season began will soon look like a bargain.