Many words have been written about the freethrophobic rebounding machine that is Nikola Vucevic, ever since his historic game against the Miami Heat. You may remember the unathletic specimen's days in Philadelphia, from his time in Doug Collins Doghouse, or by the less than rave reviews he received on Draft Night, but now he may be remembered as the best player in the Dwight Howard trade, and the single reason Sixers and Magic fans fight like the girls from The Bachelor.
Grantland published an article titled, 'Why Nikola Vucevic Could Be the Next Marc Gasol', Justin F so eloquently stated that the only difference between 240 pounds of fecal matter and Nikola Vucevic is one can rebound, and Orlando Pinstriped Post wrote a thousand word rebuttal, in 'U MAD BRO' font.
Now it's my turn. Because in a world filled with fake girlfriends and fake deaths, and Reggie Miller color commentary, you can never have enough Nikola Vucevic.
First thing's first.
For years, and years, and years, and years, the Sixers were the model of NBA mediocrity. The only way out was a superstar – they either had to draft a one (unlikely) or trade for one (nearly impossible).
The night they traded for Andrew Bynum, the Sixers damn-near pulled off the impossible – they traded for a 24-year-old center, with the potential to be a 10-15 NBA player – a superstar to build around – a ticket out of mediocrity. Because of what Andrew Bynum represented, and still represents, the Sixers will not, and should not, ever regret the trade. Even if Vucevic became a top 30 NBA Player (no chance), he'll never provide the Sixers with the same potential as Andrew Bynum, and keeping him, in turn, would've cemented the Sixers in the NBA Friend Zone for-possibly-ever.
Vucevic has his deficiencies – he's dead last amongst qualified centers in Free Throw Rate and plays below average defense, but what he lacks in defense and free throws, he makes up for by being an elite rebounder, and slightly above average in efficiency and interior passing. Peep this table:
Player A is DeMarcus Cousins
Player B is Derrick Favors
Player C is Greg Monroe
Player D is Nikola Vucevic
Vuce's talents aren't as highly-regarded as Boogie, Favors or Monroe, but he certainly produces in a similar fashion. He also ranks in the top half of qualified big men, in relevant categories, drafted in the last five years. Of the 60 Forwards/Centers drafted since 2008, here's where Vuce ranks in 2012-13:
It's far from outrageous to claim Vucevic is one of the better 25-and-under big men in the NBA, with more improvement forthcoming.
There's virtually zero chance Nikola Vucevic ever turns out to be an All-Star caliber player, or come even remotely close. Draft Express has his ceiling as Mehmet Okur. Mehmet was a really nice NBA player in his prime - and I know he made an All-Star team - but if he's your absolute best case scenario, that's a relatively low ceiling ... Vucevic probably tops out as a 7th or 8th man on a championship caliber team.
I stand by everything I said, but I'd like to add: Vuce's ceiling is the 7th/8th best player on a championship team, the 6th/7th best player on a contender, the 5th/6th best player on a borderline contender, the 4th/5th best player on a Playoff team, the 3rd/4th best guy on a .500 team, the 2nd/3rd best guy on a lottery team, and the best player on the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats.
Will the Sixers rue the day they traded Nikola Vucevic? Like hell they won't. Is Nikola Vucevic going to be a productive NBA player for a like time? Like hell he is.