By Josh CohenDec. 11, 2017
ORLANDO - Nikola Vucevic logged his first career triple-double during Saturday’s game in Atlanta. While his 31 points and 13 rebounds shouldn’t be ignored or devalued, Vucevic’s career-high 10 assists is what made the performance so special and unique.
Not anything new necessarily, as he’s always had excellent court vision, instincts and awareness, but Vucevic has now become an elite playmaking center.
More and more teams are relying on big guys to facilitate. Currently around the league, eight different centers, including Vucevic, are averaging at least three assists per game. Never before have this many “true” centers averaged this many assists for an entire season.
The Magic’s ball movement, as a team, has been very impressive. They racked up a season-best 39 assists against the Hawks and presently rank fourth in the NBA in this category.
While collective selflessness and trust are major reasons for this, Vucevic, who Frank Vogel recently said is the “leader of the pack” when it comes to his willingness to play through the pass, understands the positive effects from sharp ball movement.
What may be most extraordinary about Vucevic and his facilitating is that he’s accumulating these assists in different ways.
In Saturday’s game, particularly, he made outstanding over the top passes to teammates cutting to the basket and found guys out of the post when a double team came. Vucevic has also been terrific in the pick-and-roll, either setting up teammates by kicking the ball out to open shooters on the perimeter or finding guys eluding defenders along the baseline.
Here’s a look at a few plays that highlight Vucevic’s passing abilities.