After losing Brook Lopez in the recent free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers will be heading into the 2018-19 NBA season without a legitimate star center on their roster. Though they currently have JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac, and Moritz Wagner, none of those big men look ready for the starting role. McGee spent most of his NBA career coming off the bench, while Zubac and Wagner need more experience for a heavy workload.
If they struggle without a quality center, the Lakers should immediately address the issue before the real battle begins in the Western Conference Playoffs. According to Brett Ong of ClutchPoints, one of the potential trade targets for the Lakers is Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic.
“Landing Nikola Vucevic instantly gives the Purple and Gold the prototypical big man they’ve been yearning for. Given his ability to space the floor, rebound the basketball, and post up, he’ll be a solid fit alongside Ball, James, or Rondo, who will find him for easy baskets off the pick and roll. Additionally, after averaging almost a steal and a block for his seven-year career, Vuc’s defense is underrated and he does a good enough job of protecting the paint. Think of him as a slightly quicker and younger version of Brook Lopez.”
The inevitable is coming for Nikola Vucevic… but not any time soon: https://t.co/IrD0q6BK5z— Orlando Magic Daily (@OMagicDaily) September 4, 2018
In the proposed trade deal by ClutchPoints, the Lakers would trade veteran shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Magic for center Nikola Vucevic. Though KCP and Vucevic match each other’s salary, the Lakers and the Magic will need to wait until December 15 to make the deal since Caldwell-Pope just signed a new contract in the recent free agency. However, if this trade becomes a reality, it will help both teams in filling needs to improve their rosters.
Nikola Vucevic will give the Lakers a starting caliber center who can space the floor. In the last two years, Vucevic has also shown some improvements with his performance on the defensive end of the floor. In the 57 games he played with the Magic last season, the 27-year-old center averaged 16.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.0 block on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the departure of Nikola Vucevic in Orlando will enable the Magic to give significant minutes to Mo Bamba, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2018 NBA draft. The addition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to address the Magic’s three-point shooting, which ranked 28th in the league last season.