Who's the starter: Nik Vucevic
Why he's starting: Vucevic, 23, exceeded all expectations in his first year as a Magic player last season. He proved to be a superb rebounder on both ends of he court, and he finished second in the NBA in rebounding, averaging 13.1 boards per game. He possesses uncommonly good hand-eye coordination for a 7-footer. He has a nice midrange jumper, and, like many other European big men, he passes well out of the high post.
During the offseason, he sought to add strength and explosiveness and improve his lateral quickness. Team officials want him to play with more physicality and more of a mean streak in the season ahead. He also has room to improve his moves in the low post. His mother and father played professional basketball, and their influence gave him a good work ethic.
Who are the backups: Second-year big man Kyle O'Quinn will be one of the team's top options as Vucevic's backup; O'Quinn didn't take up competive baskeball until his junior year of high school, and he played four seasons at Norfolk State, so he still has room to refine his game. But O'Quinn plays with high energy and a mean streak.
The Magic signed eight-year NBA veteran Jason Maxiell over the summer, and while Maxiell is only 6 feet 7, he can play center because of his toughness and experience. At 6 feet 9, Glen Davis is better equipped to play power forward, but he, too, can play the center position.
Who has played this position first: Dave Corzine was nearing the end of his lengthy NBA career when the Magic traded a pair of future second-round picks for him on June 27, 1989. Corzine started the Magic's first regular-season game, but he injured a knee early in the season and underwent reconstructive surgery. He played in just six games total for Orlando.
Who else has played this position: The center spot arguably has been the Magic's best position through the years.
The Magic used the first overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft to select Shaquille O'Neal, and O'Neal immediately made the Magic relevant. O'Neal helped lead the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals, where the franchise was swept by the Houston Rockets. O'Neal played a total of just four seasons for Orlando; after the 1995-96 season, he accepted a massive free-agent offer from the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Magic didn't recover fully from O'Neal's departure until the team won the draft lottery again in 2004 and wisely used the top overall pick to select Dwight Howard out of high school instead of UConn standout Emeka Okafor. Howard became the franchise's most charismatic player since Shaq, and he also developed into a force on the interior, especially on the defensive end of the court. Howard won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award three times, and he led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, where the team lost to the Lakers in five games. After seven seasons, Howard asked the team to trade him prior to the 2011-12 season; the season that followed was the most acrimonious season in franchise history. The Magic ultimately traded him in Aug. 2012, and that deal began the team's current rebuilding effort.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun