Vucevic Might Be Most Versatile Center in NBA

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – Is Nikola Vucevic the most well-rounded center in the NBA right now?

Joel Embiid is clearly the most dominant, particularly when he gets deep position in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns, who is shooting nearly 42 percent from 3-point range this season, is the league’s best big man from beyond the arc. Andre Drummond is by far and away the best rebounder. Nikola Jokic is the best passer at his position. Rudy Gobert is the best defender.

While Vucevic isn’t necessarily the “best” at any one aspect of the game, he’s excellent across the board. He scores from all three levels, is terrific on the glass, is a high level passer, sets solid screens, plays good defense without fouling and commits very few turnovers.

The Magic’s 7-footer flirted with a triple-double in Friday’s victory over the 76ers, tallying 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. But what was most impressive about his performance was that he didn’t cough the ball up once.

The 29-year-old is currently averaging 1.2 turnovers per game, which ranks in the top five in the league among starting centers. Also amazing about Vucevic, a first-time All-Star last season, is that he almost always stays out of foul trouble.

Since joining the Magic in 2012, Vucevic has fouled out in only 14 games and just once in the last 3 ½ seasons.

The Magic, collectively, did a great job containing Embiid during Friday’s game. Philly’s big man shot just 8-of-21 from the field and 4-of-11 from 3-point distance. He also attempted only four free throws, four fewer than his season average.

While Vucevic did his part to throw Embiid off a bit, Khem Birch was also tremendous. Now in his third season in Orlando, Birch continues to be a force on the defensive end. Opponents are shooting just 42 percent when the 27-year-old is the closest defender. The only Magic player who has appeared in at least as many games as Birch and has a better defensive field goal percentage is Wes Iwundu, who also was very good defensively against the Sixers.


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