The Orlando Magic rode Nikola Vucevic into the playoffs and rewarded him. The question now is how does the team get better and how does Vucevic improve.
There is always a question around Nikola Vucevic. It never seems like he is able to outpace the questions that have followed him throughout his career — he is not tough enough to man the post, he defers to his jumper too often, he is not strong defensively.
Even after a season in which he earned an All-Star bid, the questions would not go away.
That is what the playoffs can do.
As brilliant as Nikola Vucevic was during the regular season, the playoffs re-exposed all the weaknesses Orlando Magic fans had worried about. They raised all-new questions about Vucevic and where he fits with the team.
The team put some of those questions to rest in signing Vucevic to a (front-loaded) four-year, $100-million contract. The Magic understood how vital he was to the team’s success and valued his consistency.
They also showed the faith the 28-year-old center could repeat his All-Star performance and learn his lessons from a humbling playoff showing. The Magic invested in the work ethic they know Vucevic has.
The team is shifting though despite the success from last year. Even though the Magic re-invested in much the same roster, they still want to move forward. Orlando still has designs on getting out of the first round and competing for something more than simply a playoff berth this season.
Vucevic again has a lot to prove this year. He has to prove he can be an All-Star again and lead a team in the playoffs, raising his game when it matters.
More than that though, despite his new four-year contract, Vucevic has to secure his place with the team moving forward. He has to prove he can be the team’s starting center moving forward. Mohamed Bamba is still knocking on the door for that spot even if he is not ready to start yet.
There are other players on the team knocking on the door for more too. It is not that everyone will fight for their share of the ball, but everyone will be fighting for their place with the team moving forward and the roles they will take as this team makes its rise.
Vucevic is certainly among them. He is unselfish enough that he will make the right play and be a good teammate. Most of the players are. There should not be a ton of concern of infighting. They all want to win.
But it is easy to see that problem of more creep in with this group. There are a lot of mouths to feed.
Vucevic will be one of them. And with a lot to prove once again, it will be interesting to see what Vucevic does for an encore and how he fits in with this renewed team.
Published at Fri, 20 Sep 2019 16:34:10 +0000