In Orlando‘s loss to the Washington Wizards, Nikola Vucevic suffered a fractured left hand that will keep him out for 6-8 weeks. Orlando’s longest tenured player is one of several more injuries impeding the Magic. This rash of injuries has continually marred the Magic since their strong start to the season. Losing Vucevic for the next 2 months or more will make things even worse for the struggling team.
Nikola Vucevic Injury Sets Orlando Magic Further Back
Vucevic has been the face of the Magic franchise for some time now. The European center is Orlando’s longest tenured player. Additionally, he’s been the most valuable member of the team since joining it in 2012. However, he and many other starters will miss significant time as Orlando’s struggle with injuries continues.
The easiest way to understand Vucevic’s importance to the team is to look at his Total Points Added (TPA) score. Importantly, Vucevic has the highest TPA on the team. His offensive ability is clear, and his offensive points added score of 40 shows that. However, his surprisingly high defensive points saved score of 38 is equally impressive.
Part of this has to do with his fellow starters being fairly good on defense when healthy. It’s no secret that Vucevic’s defensive skills are his biggest weakness. Regardless, Vucevic’s long term injury means that Orlando will lose it’s statistically most valuable player. With 3 of his his fellow starters out, Orlando will face even more adversity.
Filling his Role
With Vucevic’s injury keeping him out for roughly 2 months, someone will need to step up. This is a great opportunity for Bismack Biyombo. Many argue that Biyombo’s contract is the least valuable in the entire NBA. Opposite to Vucevic, Biyombo struggles offensively but is stronger on defense.
Former General Manager Rob Hennigan signed Biyombo hoping to create a revitalized “old-school” style of play. So far, it hasn’t worked out well. Last year, Biyombo’s presence only created a log jam in the front court. That was one of many problems for last year’s team. However, more time as a starter may reinvigorate a player who has struggled to find a solid role.
Even now, Orlando has no shortage of big men. The absence of Vucevic opens up opportunity for other players to pitch in during his injury. Marreese Speights has spent much of his time playing as a power forward this year. However, he’s also adept at playing center. With Aaron Gordon still considered day-to-day, Speights won’t likely spend much time away from the 4. However, when Gordon does return, expect Speights to add some shooting ability from the bench at the 5.
How Will Orlando do in the Meantime?
Orlando has struggled badly since starting the season 8-4. Unfortunately, the problems go far beyond injuries. The Magic aren’t playing smart basketball and just look like they’ve given up on the season already. For now, Vucevic is the leader of this team. Losing him will make this uninspired team stumble even further.
LOS ANGELES, USA – JANUARY 08 : Tarik Black (L) of Los Angeles Lakers in action against Nikola Vucevic (R) of Orlando Magic during a NBA game between Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA on January 08, 2017. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)