Through three games, Nikola Vucevic has had a hot start to the 2017-18 season, averaging 27.7 PPG and 10.7 RPG. He had an impressive 41 points in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in the team’s 2nd game. Vucevic has looked sharp so far, but can he keep it up?
Nikola Vucevic’s Consistency Key for the Orlando Magic
Vucevic’s offensive game has been a upside through Orlando’s first three games. He is shooting well, being efficient at the free throw line, and playing well while Aaron Gordon is hurt.
So far, he is only averaging 1.3 offensive rebounds per game. This is something he will look to improve. However, he has spent more time away from the basket as he has taken on the role of a shooter. Because of this, a drop in offensive rebounds should be expected.
In three games, he is averaging 3.3 free throw attempts per game and hitting 80% on them. Despite it being a small sample size, it is a great start. To enumerate, he is roughly .04% over his career free throw percentage. Although it is early, he looks good at the line.
Consistency With the Shooting
The European center has been a hot shooter to start off the season, shooting an impressive 68% from the field. Moreover, he is hitting 75% of his two point shots. Additionally, he is delivering on an off-season promise to improve his three point shooting.
Over the summer, Vucevic was adamant on developing a three point shot. In order for a center to be valuable in today’s NBA, they need to be able to score from range. And so far, Vucevic has adapted to this new demand. He has shot 50% from beyond the arc this season. In fact, that is a staggering 20% improvement from last seasons totals.
But can he keep it up? In three games, his shooting has been pretty consistent. With Marreese Speights able to help bear the offensive burden at center, Vucevic is more confident in taking shots. Working on a particular element over summer has helped too.
With Gordon back from injury, some of the scoring down low will go away from Vucevic. However, Gordon driving low through the lane will give Vucevic time and space to take shots. While Vucevic may take fewer attempts, he will likely continue to shoot well with Gordon adding this element for him. To emphasize, the return of Gordon should mean Vucevic has opportunity to continue his strong shooting
It is early in the season, and it can be expected for Vucevic to not remain so hot. But consistency can be expected given what he has done so far. A better bench and a practical off-season regimen will help him maintain offensive consistency.
Improvements on the Defensive End
With three games played, Vucevic has looked better defensively. Another emphasis he placed on himself over the summer was dropping his body fat percentage to be more agile. In doing this, the goal was to help him move more quickly to pace himself with smaller players. Up to this point, he looks good.
Another element that has been impressive so far is his block numbers. Over his career, Vucevic averages just under one block per game. Despite a small sample size, he has started the season out with just under two blocks per game at 1.7. With an adjusted body type, Vucevic has better ability to remain consistent with those numbers.
Rebounding has been a general strength of Vucevic through his career, averaging just shy of 10 per game. However, with his expected drop in offensive rebounds, he has compensated in defensive rebounds. After three games, he has cleaned up the boards well with an impactful 9.3 defensive rebounds. Normally, teammate Bismack Biyombo is also support off the bench for Vucevic in this category. However, he is only averaging 1.7 defensive rebounds so far, though that is likely to change.
Total Points Added
While offense is certainly important, some players add large point totals while allowing too many points on defense. This statistic is called total points added (TPA). According to NBA Math, Vuvecic currently ranks second in the league for total points added. He has an offensive points added score of 24.86 in three games. Equally important, though, is that he has a positive defensive points subtracted score of 5.55 while on the court. This means that Vucevic contributes a total points added score of 30.41.
Heading into games on October 24, here's how all NBA players—and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who can't be real—stack up in TPA: pic.twitter.com/3JTAC7JfIk
— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) October 24, 2017
Being placed second in the league in this category is good. Maintaining consistency on defense will be what is really important in maintaining this, though. If Vucevic continues to keep up with players driving to the rim and continues to hound the boards for rebounds, he will maintain his impressive TPA.
Despite it being early in the season, Vucevic is off to a hot start, and that is worth noting. In order for the Magic to find success, their longest tenured player needs to continue to lead his team. The best way for him to do that is to build off of his hot start. Through maintaining his impressive shooting percentage and by simply having a good presence in the post on defense, Vucevic will consistently be Orlando’s most important player. Right out the gates, he looks great.