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).

  1. Chadzilla says:

    Good stuff. I’m a huge pistons fan. What kind of value do u see this upcoming year for Josh Smith, Greg Monroe (assuming he’s not traded), Brandon Knight, Dre Drummond, and Chauncey (love it)? Gonna be an interesting team this year. Thinking they move up and take the 6-7 seed in the east.


  2. Pete Nice

    Pete Nice says:

    I think it’s great ya’ll got Josh Smith, definitely a stat monster and highlight reel dude. And yup I’m psyched for Drummond to not only star in this feature but overall and in general. But I gots some questions:

    – Can Smith change from being a sort-of douche and become the leader he should be?

    – Billups takes you back to your glory years, I get it. But he’s a little long in the tooth now, and the PG position is kind of crowded even without Calderon (Bynum, Stuckey, Knight and now Chauncey). Granted, any of them can play off the ball, but something’s gotta change by the end of training camp.

    – Monroe is a beast, and anytime I see him on an opposing team’s squad, I want him. But there’s something Brook Lopez-ish about him. He’s an above-average scorer, but a guy that big should be a Crafty Breuer – he’s barely a Nevitt. More blocks-n-boards, please!

    • Chadzilla says:

      @Pete Nice: I’m big time worried about Smith being an ego maniac in Detroit. Either way he’ll get his stats and it should make for a year far more interesting than than the lullaby that was last year’s season. (No idea why they signed back bynum). But if Brandon Knight is slotted as the starting PG come day 1 he has enormous upside this season. With Smith, Monroe, and Drummond down low he should be able to drive and dish with ease, in addition to finding himself wide open on the wing while the bigs face double teams and different defensive schemes to keep them from scoring inside. With all that said he was horrible last year and needs to rebound big this year for the teams sake.

      • Chadzilla says:

        @Chadzilla: Thanks again. And i completely agree with your take on Monroe. He has 25 – 15 potential every night but more often than not ends up around 12 and 8

  3. Fenris-77 says:

    The Detroit lineup makes me scratch my head, I like the individual players involved – Monroe, Drummond, Smith and, I guess by default, Caldwell-Pope, but man-o-man that’s a brutal shooting lineup. Hopefully Detroit rolls Smoove down to PF for a lot of his minutes and slides an actual shooter in a SF more often.

    Vucevic might get slept on in public leagues, but I think you’re going to have to pay a premium for him in leagues where guys actually know what their doing. Vucevic ranked out at 34 last year for 9 cat play, so you have to think you’d need to draft him in the 4th at the latest if you really wanted him. Maybe even the third. I guess the question is whether a team that picks in the back third of the first round is going to be willing to take Vucevic around the 3-4 turn. I think I’d be ok with that on the right team.

    • Pete Nice

      Pete Nice says:

      @Fenris-77: I agree, I really don’t see Nikola as a sleeper at all. I’m just saying he’s not yet flashy or sexy enough to warrant most people taking him ahead of a big name. That’s where smartypants like us come in.

  4. Fenris-77 says:

    I have the sneaking suspicion that the talking heads on Yahoo and ESPN will start inflating his value pretty much as soon as their fantasy hoops coverage starts. He exactly the kind of guy they like to look smart by pushing hard. The hype may not reach third round levels though (hopefully), saving both the heartache of drafting Vucevic in the second out of sheer stubbornness.

  5. Pete Nice

    Pete Nice says:

    Maybe he’ll be so overrated that he’ll end up being underrated!

  6. And1 says:

    GO SIXERS! MCW and Nerlens and Wiggins will be the new Big 3. 10 rings for Philly!

    • Pete Nice

      Pete Nice says:

      @And1: I’m looking forward to a bright future with a fresh, positive outlook … but only if Bynum’s leg falls off and he’s an epic fail in Cleveland.

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