Nikola Vucevic put together a monster 2018-19 season, and now he has a contract to match.
The 7-foot center will reportedly land a four-year, $100 million deal to remain with the Orlando Magic when free agency opens on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, according a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Vucevic was one of five players who averaged at least 20 points and 12 rebounds last season, earning him his first All-Star bid at age 28. Those others? League MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo plus Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.
While Vucevic is not particularly talented on defense like those other four, he was still the most valuable — and longest-tenured — member of a Magic team that just made the postseason for the first time in seven seasons.
How does Vucevic fit into Magic’s long-term plans?
Vucevic has been a key cog for the Magic ever since they acquired him in the massive four-team, 12-player deal that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, it hasn’t been clear until now whether the Magic would shell out the cash necessary to keep him.
The Magic have invested heavily in big men in the lottery, making Vucevic an odd fit. With Mo Bamba in 2018, Jonathan Isaac in 2017, and Aaron Gordon — now on a four-year, $80 million contract — in 2014, Vucevic was considered readily moveable.
But when Orlando stayed in playoff contention, the Magic opted to keep their big man in town rather than deal him, and they wound up with the sixth seed in the East. Now those other forwards may become trade bait for backcourt help.
Orlando had to fight off major suitors to retain Vucevic
Vucevic’s reported quick decision to return to Orlando says a lot when considering what other teams were reportedly interested in signing him.
The Boston Celtics reportedly made Vucevic one of their “top priorities” this offseason as a younger replacement for Al Horford. They appear in line to sign Kemba Walker instead, but any comparison to a five-time All-Star is quite the compliment.
The Los Angeles Lakers were also considered in the running for Vucevic, and they had a local connection since he played college nearby at USC. He was more of a backup plan if their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson or Jimmy Butler fell through, but his ability to match with another star big like Davis — and improved three-point shot — goes to show how well suited he is for the modern NBA.
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