Last season, Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic was a rebounding machine. In fact, he ranked third among all players in double doubles with an impressive 46.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2013 season, and Vucevic is just two points shy of posting a double double in his first two games. It’s going to happen a lot this year, folks. Get used to it.
After a very strong 2012 season in which he averaged 13.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and one block per game, Vucevic was one of the best waiver wire gems of the season. And heading into 2013 drafts. many targeted Vucevic as a major sleeper candidate. Keep in mind that he posted those strong numbers while playing 33.2 minutes per game, which was an entire two and three minutes fewer than the two big men ahead of him in the double double category, Dwight Howard and David Lee. Two games into the 2013 season, and the breakout has already commenced, fantasy fans. One of the most underrated centers in fantasy and real life, Vucevic is going to make sure you are familiar with his name going forward.
In the first game of the year, Vucevic was two points shy of a double double, but still scored a solid eight points, adding 10 rebounds, three assists, a block and two steals. He followed it with an even better performance the night later, scoring 22 points, grabbing 16 boards, assisting on three buckets, swatting three shots and forcing another three steals. An all around dynamite game from Vucevic, who will continue to be the focal point of a weak Orlando offense. And while these two games are a very small sample size, I still think we can get an accurate picture of how he is going to be used over the course of the season.
NBA.com has featured some brand new statistics that allow fantasy fans to understand just how good or bad one of their players has been. Looking at Vucevic thus far, all signs are pointing towards some absolute massive upside for the rest of the season. For starters, he is averaging a very healthy 36.9 minutes per contest, which is good enough for top-35 in the league right now. However, I could seriously see that number soon inside the top-15, as some odd names are on the list now. For instance, Lance Stephenson is averaging 38.7 minutes per game, but that will obviously change once Danny Granger returns. Unlike a lot of these guys, Vucevic doesn’t have a certain variable impacting his playing time. The only other guy who can actually play the center position on this roster is Glen Davis, who won’t see the court until late November. Everyone else is pretty undersized. Also, remember when I said that Orlando wants to get Vucevic the ball?
Through roughly the first week of the season, the seven-footer has touched the ball 154 times, averaging 77 touches per contest. That’s sixth-most in the NBA right now. We also want to see rebounds out of a seven foot center, and he’s had opportunity thus far, seeing 22.5 rebound chances per game, which ranks fifth among all big men.
He’s going to continue to see plenty of opportunity and volume the rest of the way, and needs to be considered at least a top-10 fantasy center.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.