Mar 28, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) celebrates after scoring against the Charlotte Bobcats at Amway Center. Center.The Magic won 110-105 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Magic: How Does Nikola Vucevic Compare To Other NBA Centers?

Ask any Orando Magic fan about center Nikola Vucevic, and all will speak favorably of his talents and be glad he is a part of their team. Entering the fourth year of his career, and the final one of his rookie contract, Vucevic projects to get better as a player and one day soon be in All-Star contention.

Early indications would also suggest he will re-sign with Orlando when the opportunity to do so arises. There is no doubt he still has nor reached his ceiling as a player, not even close, but when we compare him to other past Magic centers and some of the better centers in the league today, how does he stack up?

Roy Hibbert 25 65 65 .497 .498 .711 8.8 2.0 2.0 12.8
Dwight Howard 22 82 82 .599 .601 .590 14.2 2.1 3.2 20.7
DeAndre Jordan 23 66 66 .632 .634 .525 8.3 2.0 1.1 7.4
Brook Lopez 23 5 5 .494 .494 .625 3.6 0.8 1.2 19.2
Joakim Noah 25 48 48 .525 .526 .739 10.4 1.5 1.9 11.7
Shaquille O’Neal 23 54 52 .573 .573 .487 11.0 2.1 2.9 26.6

The above table shows how each of the six centers got on during their fourth years in the NBA. For a little bit of perspective, let’s also look at Vucevic’s numbers from last season, his third in the league, to see if we can see roughly how Vucevic would hope to improve.

Nikola Vucevic 23 57 57 .507 .507 .766 11.0 0.8 2.0 14.2
Right away, it’s clear Vucevic isn’t exactly Shaquille O’Neal or even Dwight Howard. However, he wasn’t a No. 1 overall pick like both franchise centers in Orlando before him, so in actual fact his numbers stack up pretty good compared to his predecessors.
Like Shaq, Vucevic has had some early career niggling injuries to contend with as well.

Nikola Vucevic’s field goal percentage could do with a lift next year. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at what else is good about where Vucevic is at right now, look no further than Joakim Noah‘s stats here. While he is the emotional heartbeat of the Chicago Bulls and brings so many intangibles to that team, his numbers at year four of his career are impressive without being dominating.

As it is, Vucevic already scores more points, is a better free throw shooter and has the same amount of rebounds Noah had, and that was before Vucevic even entered year four. He is also two years younger than the French national team center.

Something else worth considering. Roy Hibbert was named an All-Star the year he produced the numbers above.
Vucevic bested the Indiana Pacers big man in every statistical category except blocks, so even if he were to replicate last year’s numbers this year, he’d be pretty much a shoo-in to be an All-Star, right? Well not exactly, but only because the format of how the team is chosen for All-Star Weekend has changed, with two guards and three forwards now required as opposed to having one true center on the team.
Nevertheless though, encouraging signs for Vucevic.
With the exception of Hibbert and Brook Lopez however, Vucevic’s field goal percentage is lower than everybody else’s on the list. While we are comparing year three Vucevic to year four everybody else, that number doesn’t figure to jump massively next year.
Why this is perhaps an issue is because Vucevic has arguably the best tough and hands on this list, again bar Lopez. He is capable of doing much more than just bullying his way into the paint and jamming the ball through the net.
For this reason, and with a neat jump shot already in his arsenal, an improvement here really is a must. Of the stats provided Vucevic is also the best free throw shooter of the bunch, so we know the mechanics of his shot are somewhat sound.
Watching him last year it was also clear he didn’t mind taking jump shots if that’s what the defense was going to give him. Looking at it the other way though, a slam dunk is a much higher percentage look than the dreaded midrange jumper, and so with Vucevic’s offense being more variable than others here, it is no wonder his field goal percentage lags behind others.
So, what does all of this mean then? Well, it is certainly encouraging stuff for Vucevic and the Magic.
He’s not Dwight Howard or Shaquille O’Neal, but he’s a different type of center anyway. He is extremely effective at what he does, and figures to only get better. In fact, when you look at the numbers from the other centers on this list, there is a chance that when next season is in the books Vucevic will lead some categories mentioned here.
Nikola Vucevic could turn out to not only be the Orlando Magic’s best player in the next two years, certainly he’ll be the most dominant, but he could also turn into the best true center in the NBA. Big praise for sure, but looking at the numbers above it’s hard to argue he won’t be a top five center at the very least.
Of course the generation of players behind him has players such as Andre Drummond who will also break out themselves in time, but the Orlando Magic have to be more than happy with what they’ve got right now.
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