It used be NBA teams couldn’t have enough size, but with the advent of small-ball lineups, and playmaking now overtaking size as the most-coveted skill, the Orlando Magic reportedly face several questions after padding their frontcourt this offseason.
According to ESPN, even after Orlando pried center Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City and signed Bismack Biyombo from Toronto, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan is “in no rush” to trade talented center Nikola Vucevic even though minutes could be scare for the seven-footer.
The report stresses Hennigan called the 25-year-old after inking Biyombo to a four-year, $72 million deal and said he had no plans to trade him, but that he couldn’t confirm Vucevic would remain the starter.
For the last three seasons, Vucevic’s been Orlando’s primary inside scoring presence and starting center, and despite battling minor injuries last season he averaged 18.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, and a career-high 2.8 assists.
Yet even in the face of Vucevic’s consistency and playmaking, with the assists accounting for roughly 16 percent of the Magic’s baskets when he was on the floor last season, the Magic are worried they don’t have enough playmakers to feed their young wings and bigs.
New Orlando head coach Frank Vogel, signed 15 days after Indiana fired him, now has to find minutes for Vucevic, the Magic’s best post player, as well as Biyombo and Ibaka, clearly the best rebounders and shot blockers.
On top of picking his poison between more offense or a stronger defense, Vogel must also find ways of unclogging the lane for high-flying and slashing forward Aaron Gordon and floor-spacing small forward Mario Hezonja.
Hezonja averaged only 17.9 minutes per game last season, and struggled from the floor at 43.3 percent shooting and 34.9 percent from deep, but he was a first-round draft pick last year and will require more minutes and quality shots to really open up his game. Unclogging the lane and allowing Hezonja, as well as Gordon, more space to operate in the mid-range and the paint could help both develop.
That would require less touches for Vucevic down-low, and more time on the wing. But according to Basketball-Reference, last season Vucevic knocked down only 43.1 percent of his shots between 10 and 16 feet, compared to 61.6 percent within three feet and 50 percent between three and 10 feet. He was even worse from the three-point line at 22.2 percent.
Vucevic's contract won't impede a possible deal. Given the ever-inflating deals around the league under the new salary cap, Vucevic will make roughly $11.75 million next season and is owed only $25 million the subsequent two years until he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2019.