2019-20 Magic Pre-Hiatus Review: Nikola Vucevic

by John Denton

ORLANDO - Whereas the NBA is still on track to resume its interrupted season on July 30 at Disney World, in many ways that restart will feel like a completely new season to the players and coaches involved.

After all, it will be more than four months of time between the last NBA games being played on March 11 and the ones scheduled to start near the end of next month. Never before has the NBA seen a disruption in its season quite like the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this season.

The Orlando Magic, for example, were 30-35 when the season was halted, but that record hardly tells the story of where the team sat when the suspension hit. As of early March, the Magic were among the hottest teams in the league after winning three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 12. Fittingly, their offensive production was off the charts and near the tops in the league during that hot streak.

Now, the Magic’s mission is to try and pick up where they left off when they rallied to beat the Grizzlies in Memphis. If that stirring victory feels like it was ages ago, it’s because it truly was.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll break down the overall play and top performances of the Magic’s key players over the first 65 games of the season. Also, we’ll analyze where those players need to improve when the NBA season resumes at Disney World on July 22. The NBA is sending 22 teams – nine from the East and 13 from the West – to play eight ``seeding’’ games before starting the playoffs.

Without further ado, today we look at the play and production of center Nikola Vucevic, the longest-tenured member of the Magic at eight seasons:

Player: Nikola Vucevic
Position: Center
Height, weight, time with Magic: 7-0, 260, 8 seasons

2019-20 Statistics: 54 games; 19.5 points; 11 rebounds; 3.7 assists; 0.9 blocks; 47 FG percentage; 32.8 3FG percentage; 75.7 FT percentage.

2019-20 Best game: Nov. 17 (125-121 win vs. Washington) – 30 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, 11-of-14 shooting, three-of-four 3-point shooting, five-of-five free throw shooting.

2019-20 Injury woes: Missed 11 games (Nov. 23-Dec. 13) with a bone bruise and lateral sprain of his right ankle.

2019-20 Season highs: 30 points, twice (most recently: March 2, vs. Portland); 24 rebounds (Jan. 6, vs. Brooklyn); nine assists (Feb. 10, vs. Atlanta); three blocks, three times (most recently: Feb. 6, at New York); six steals (Dec. 20, at Portland).

2019-20 Season to date: Vucevic is poised to lead the Magic in both scoring and rebounding in the same season for a fourth time. He has led the franchise in rebounding in all eight of his seasons in Orlando. Vucevic’s numbers aren’t far off of last year when he posted career highs in nearly every major category – production that earned him a lucrative new contract. A big reason why the Magic started to play better after the All-Star break was because they filtered more and more of their offense through their big man to utilize his shooting, scoring and passing abilities. In the Magic’s 10 games after the All-Star break, Vucevic averaged 21.8 points, 12 rebounds and 3.8 assists while making 52 percent of his shots.

2019-20 Finish: First and foremost, the Magic have to hope that Vucevic can stay healthy over the conclusion of the season and in the playoffs. His versatility and knack for simply making the right play are keys to the Magic having a shot of doing some damage in the playoffs. If the Magic climb to the seventh seed and end up opposite the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs, Vucevic will have to play better than he did last spring against Raptors’ big man Marc Gasol. Gasol, an extremely smart and seasoned player who can be physical or play with finesse, is one of the few opposing centers who has a history of success defensively against Vucevic. If the Magic’s leading scorer and rebounder can simply play as well as he was playing before the stoppage in play, Orlando could have a shot at pulling off a first-round upset in the postseason.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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