Discussions about whether Nikola Vucevic might just be a stiff who lucked into a bad Magic team and that’s why he put up Herculean numbers at various points — most notably against Miami — last season, appear crazy now. The 7-foot Montenegrin had his second 30 point – 20 rebound game last night as the Magic won their third straight against the Clippers.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were powerless to stop Vuc from controlling the paint. He slipped in for 5 offensive boards and showcased a much more mature low-post game than either Clippers frontcourt player, despite this being only his second full-time season. He was 8-for-10 in the restricted area, and there was nothing either of them could do when he got the ball with good position, or snagged another offensive board.
The idea that Vuc, in only his third season, might not have what it takes to become the full-time Magic center is ludicrous, especially when you take a cursory dive into Vuc’s opening week. He’s sporting a 24.9 PER through five games after an above-average 17.8 last season.
Despite grabbing 21 boards to complement his game-high 30 points in the Magic’s 98-90 victory over the Clips last night, his total rebounding percentage — an estimate of the total number of available rebounds a player grabbed while he is on the floor — this season is actually down from last year (19.2 vs. 20.2).
Vuc is third in the league in RPG this season trailing Kevin Love and Dwight Howard. When you look at the NBA’s SportVU numbers, only Love is pulling down more contested boards than Vuc, and Vuc is getting fewer chances than Love. It’s not bluster to conclude Vucci Mane is the top rebounder in the game through the inchoate 2013-14 season.
He’s been a beast in the middle for a surprising Magic team that was expected to be involved in the Wiggins sweepstakes this season, but has instead turned into a potential upset bid for the playoffs in the East. #VucciMane is the largest reason why. Keep an eye on the big fella and remember those crazy 20/20 games against Miami last year were no fluke; we could be seeing the dawn of another dominant center outta the East.
[#VucciMane via @erivera7]
What do you think of Vuc’s opening 5 games?
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