ORLANDO - Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Deandre Ayton (even if he’s just a rookie) are three of the best centers in the league.
Nikola Vucevic – another elite big man – has been matched up with each of them twice this season. And in all six of those games, the Magic veteran has played just as well, if not better, than all three.
In the first meeting against Embiid on Oct. 20, Vucevic posted his second career triple-double with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. Then, on Nov. 14, the 28-year-old recorded 30 points and eight rebounds in Orlando’s thrilling win over Philadelphia.
Although the Magic were crushed by the Nuggets in the first game of their five-game West Coast road trip and despite Jokic dishing out 11 assists, Vucevic did outscore his Denver counterpart, 16-6. Similarly, when the Nuggets came to Amway Center on Dec. 5, Vucevic outscored Jokic, 24-12.
On Nov. 30, in his first ever meeting against last June’s No. 1 overall draft pick, he racked up 25 points and 15 rebounds. Then on Wednesday, the new father of a baby boy had 22 and 13. Ayton, meanwhile, was held to just eight points.
Those aren’t the only three opponents the eight-year NBA veteran has played well against, though. He shined against Al Horford early in the season, had two of the best games of his career against LeBron’s Lakers and was outstanding when the Magic visited the two-time defending champs.
Vucevic has become a more complete player this season. He’s averaging a career high in assists, shooting a career best from 3-point range and his defense, especially in pick-and-roll defense, has been solid.