Who said Nik Vucevic can’t jump?
Ranked as the 282nd-best player in the NBA last season, Vooch has vaulted to No. 97, according to ESPN’s panel. That's some jump --- 185 spots in a year.
“I don’t really pay that much attention to that kind of stuff, but if I jump so high it proves that people think I can play,” Vucevic said before Saturday’s practice at Amway Center.
His climb isn’t a total surprise, considering Vucevic had a breakout season, averaging 13.1 points per game and 11.9 rebounds. He came to Orlando in the Philadelphia 76ers’ part of the multi-team trade involving Dwight Howard.
Vucevic, who finished second to Howard in rebounding, played in 51 games as a rookie for the 76ers in 2011-12. He averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds.
The Magic got the best end of the Dwight deal, given how the trade played out.
Howard struggled with the Lakers and eventually left for the Houston Rockets this summer. Andrew Bynum, shipped to the 76ers, missed the whole season with knee problems. Philadelphia let him go, and the Cleveland Cavs signed him.
Vucevic, though, is no longer a league secret. He will be the focus of defensive game-plans this season.
“He took everyone by surprise,” Glen Davis said of Vucevic. “This year will not be a surprise.”
“I kind of came out of nowhere,” he said. “Now people know my game and it’s up to me to keep producing.”
Fortunately for the Magic, Vucevic is an adept passer, meaning he can take advantage of double teams.
“I just have to make the right play,” he said.
The Magic want the low-key, laid-back Vucevic to play more aggressively and confidently.
The message might be reaching him.
Asked if he could unseat Howard as the rebounding champ this season, Vooch said, “Yeah, I think so. He’s a great rebounder. Not only him, but there’s other guys. My goal is to keep rebounding.”
Vooch has also set his sights on making it to the All-Star Game.
“Definitely,” he said. “That would be a dream come true.”
That kind of recognition would also go a long way to building the Magic into a winner. Vooch threw out a funny line even if he didn’t realize it.
“We don’t want to be known just for losing.”Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at email@example.com. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.