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Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic’s All-Star nod a triumph


Should you’re an Orlando Magic, and kudos to you for sticking by means of one other disappointing season, then you might be properly conscious that this has not been the season that was promised. Regardless of early indicators that the group wouldn’t solely make it again to the postseason however put up extra of a combat, a litany of accidents derailed that prepare earlier than it ever actually received going.

What we’ve been left with as a substitute is a need to see the Magic truly tank the yr, in order to get a excessive draft decide on this yr’s class. One that’s being talked about as one of many higher crops of children in recent times. Don’t inform head coach Steve Clifford that nonetheless, as alongside a veteran group of gamers, he’s nonetheless making an attempt laborious to win video games.

Amongst the negativity and eager for days when Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are each again from ACL tears sat heart Nikola Vucevic. The man who was by no means purported to be the face of the franchise (in the future Aaron Gordon, in the future…), however who took the mantle anyway. He’s the perfect and most constant participant on the staff and has been for years.

A short while again I claimed that, regardless of Vucevic having in all probability the perfect yr of his profession, it might not be sufficient to make the All-Star staff. I argued that he ought to as a result of few gamers have been doing a lot, with so little. However the Japanese Convention was simply too aggressive. Properly, I used to be incorrect.

Nikola Vucevic is a second-time All-Star, and it’s a triumph for each participant and Orlando Magic

On a private degree, that is so nice for Vucevic. Few deserve it extra for the best way he has performed and carried himself with the franchise. Introduced over from the Philadelphia 76ers as a part of the Dwight Howard commerce, followers have been aggravated that one in every of Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala, additionally a part of the four-team deal, didn’t find yourself within the deal.

Who would have thought that Vucevic was the higher selection over Bynum, and at this level perhaps even over Iguodala as properly for all he has achieved. Progress was sluggish, and defensively Vucevic was horrible. A lot in order that Bismack Biyombo was introduced in on a four-year, $72 million deal to assist shore up the defensive points. It was an terrible match, and Vucevic outlasted him.

He has kicked on from there, and this second choice, in opposition to a a lot more durable area of opponents than earlier than, does wonders for his standing in franchise historical past. He has by no means complained about his scenario, and at this level is barely the sixth participant for the reason that inception of the group to be named an All-Star greater than as soon as. He has some fairly illustrious firm.

It’s such a turnaround for a participant who many followers needed rid of, due to the actual fact he places a ceiling on how far the staff can go as their finest participant. That’s nonetheless true by the best way, however what Vucevic additionally does, and which is talked about far much less, is elevate their flooring. Take into consideration how horrible they’d be with out him now.

It’s not simply the essential numbers (a career-high 24.4 factors and 11.6 rebounds), or the actual fact Vucevic has posted these with much less assist than the final couple of years due to damage. It’s how he has continued to reinvent himself and tackle the load that’s requested of him, to the purpose now the place he’s a median defensive participant. The type who can belief for vital stretches of a recreation.

Offensively he’s a top-five massive man within the league, taking pictures a ridiculous 41 p.c from deep on a career-high 6.4 makes an attempt per recreation. Shifting away from the paint was seen as a damaging a number of years in the past when Vucevic started making the transition, however his footwork and willingness to nonetheless go inside make him a menace in each space.

Vucevic is inferior to Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, and his passing isn’t on that degree both. However as of late on numerous nights, he does a extremely good impression of being Jokic-lite for the Orlando Magic. That is one thing they want badly to offer them a shot in opposition to opponents. Simply take a look at a number of the larger names Vucevic received in there forward of. It’s important to really feel sorry for Domantas Sabonis particularly, who has an analogous recreation and performs for the higher Indiana Pacers.

However that’s the opposite piece of this. The explanation it’s big for each participant and staff. No one within the nationwide media, with the exception of Kevin Clark, cares in regards to the Magic. However when Vucevic made the All-Star staff the primary day out, it raised the profile a bit of bit. Now that he’s again for a second time, followers are going to verify again in a bit of extra ceaselessly once more.

What they may discover is a franchise in turmoil, lacking younger guys like Isaac, Fultz and Cole Anthony and must decide relating to Evan Fournier. There’s additionally the query of what precisely is happening with Mohamed Bamba, and if he can in the future take over from Khem Birch, by no means thoughts Vucevic.

But in amongst the strife, as has all the time been the case, sits Nikola Vucevic. The calm within the eye of the storm, and essentially the most deserving of All-Stars. The participant who has all the time given every thing for the Orlando Magic, even when the followers didn’t need him to. Say what you need, however at this level, he’s a top-10 participant in franchise historical past, and he’s solely going in a single course.