With Andre Iguodala bolting Denver to shoot at the walls of heartache in Oakland, Dwight Howard taking his Stay Puft Marshmallow Man act to Houston and Andrew Bynum finally dumping the 76ers, spurning the Mavericks and their Cheesecake Factory and bowling his way into Cleveland, everyone is just now catching on to the fact that the biggest winners of last off-season’s über-trade were the Orlando Magic and the biggest losers were everyone else.
Even Stan Van Gundy put on his Captain Obvious cape and backed up this assessment.
But Philadelphia 76ers fans knew different. They knew all along that the Magic were anything but losers the second the trigger was pulled on that mostly ill-fated four-team swap on August 10, 2012.
That’s because the Magic were getting Nikola Vucevic, the stone-faced 7-foot Montenegrin who showed plenty of promise during his rookie season in 2011-2012 but would mysteriously disappear at the hands of Evil Doug Collins, who was beginning to take over from Good Doug Collins as per usual whenever he’d approach the three-year mark of a coaching tenure. He played 15 minutes a game on a team that hated using Spencer Hawes at center so much that they stuck 6-8 Elton Brand in there.
OK, so Nik averaged only 5 points, 5 boards and fraction of a block per game. But waaaaiiiit … per 36 minute he averaged 12.5 ppg. And 10.9 rpg. And almost one block per game. Which is almost identical to his 2012-2013 stats (13.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg). Doug! What the Dave Corzine were you thinking?
There was nothing more maddening during this past fantasy season than watching Bynum yuck it up on the sidelines with his assorted hairdos while Vucevic piled up double-double after double-double, sprinkling in the occasional 20-20, and even a 30-20 (!!!), and even one game where he came within a hair of 30 rebounds (!!!!).
Over the course of a campaign in which he placed 4th in the Most Improved Player voting, Vucevic put up numbers that practically mirrored Moses Malone’s first full NBA season. Read that again.
He was everything the 76ers were lacking, while Bynum’s gamelog boasted 82 donut-shaped cat poops, and there was nothing we could do but make like Ron Burgundy and eat the cat poop.
But I’m ready to let go. Because I’m a fantasy player as well as a 76ers fan, and with a season of tanking with players who’ll be shuttling back and forth between the D-League’s Delaware 87ers (yeah, that’s their name, and yeah, there’s a reason for it. Google it) on tap, my favorite team is going to be the Punk Rock Gods, not the Philadelphia 76ers.
I see this guy as an almost regular mention during the debut season of Boards-n-Blocks, because I’m fairly certain he’ll fit snugly in the center of our highly unscientific measuring system for determining dudes who will have use to you in both categories.
With a Magic team that’s on the upswing but still on the lower floors of the NBA’s high rise, he’ll at the very least match the 12 boards per he put up last year (this beefcake gets 5 bounds by accident). He’s a grateful, hard-working kid, one who called the day the 76ers drafted him with the 16th pick “the greatest day of my life.” (Really?) And I see him getting stronger and even more aggressive, which means more blocks and maybe even more offensive rebounds, which means maybe even more points if you care about things like that (I don’t).
To earn props here players have to put up between 10 and 18 (Or more? Paul some Mokeski on me!) boards-plus-blocks on average.
The scale, which will be repeated until we all get it right, will be as follows:
10-12 boards + blocks: Nifty Nevitt (named after Chuck Nevitt)
13-15 boards + blocks: Crafty Breuer (named after Randy Breuer)
16-18 (or more) boards + blocks: Mutombo Jumbo (named after Dikembe)
I’m seeing Nik pulling down 12.5 per game and upping his swats to 2 this year, and those are low-ball numbers. That makes him a 14.5, well into Crafty Breuer territory. That’s pretty dang stellar! (Howard, by comparison, was almost Jumbo sized at 14.8 in ’12-’13, Larry Sanders was a solid Nevitt at 12.6 and Serge Ibaka was on the outskirts of Niftyville at 10.7.)
And with no big shot-sucking free agents joining him as a Magician this year (hey that works, right? A member of the Magic is a Magician? Come on now!), Nik could theoretically become a major force as a three-cat guy, and maybe four if you toss in FG percentage.
So the other 14 owners in my fantasy league can have the Andrew Bynums and Dwight Howards of the world.
I’m gonna draft Vucevic no matter what it takes.
And while Nikola’s Sleeper status is pretty much blown thanks to fall-out from last year’s four-team deal, including this week’s preposterous Bynum Anti-Saga, I could see him slipping to the middle rounds in many drafts, especially if writers don’t hype him up too much (wait … sorry).