Despite not having a legitimate NBA superstar on their roster, the Orlando Magic are surprisingly establishing an impressive performance in the 2018-19 NBA season. The Magic have won six of their last 10 games and are currently sitting in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 10-11 record. The Magic entered the season with the promising frontcourt of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Mo Bamba.
However, it is not one of those big men who is making the biggest impact for the Magic but their longest-tenured player Nikola Vucevic. The 28-year-old center is currently playing his best season since entering the league in 2011. In 21 games, Vucevic is currently averaging 20.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.0 block on 54.9 percent shooting from the field and 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.
If he becomes consistent and remains healthy throughout the season, Nikola Vucevic could help the Magic end their six-year playoff drought. However, with the presence of Mo Bamba, it remains a big question if the Magic should still keep Vucevic on their roster. Vucevic is undoubtedly the Magic’s best player right now, but Matt John of the Basketball Insiders believes that the veteran center will slow down the development of Bamba, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft.
“But if the Magic plan to keep Vucevic, that could do some harm to Bamba’s development. Unless they’re the Philadelphia 76ers, teams don’t take talented centers that high in the draft hoping that he’ll be a backup. If Orlando believes Bamba is the future, having him play as a second stringer for an extended period could stunt his growth. Since drafting Bamba would have assuredly meant that they believe the latter has a brighter future than the former, the logical move would be to let Vucevic go.”
Nikola Vucevic is currently playing the final year of the four-year, $53 million contract he signed with the Magic in the summer of 2015. With his current performance, it is highly likely that Vucevic will demand a huge payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. If the Magic see Mo Bamba as their center of the future and have no intention of paying the veteran center, trading Vucevic before the February NBA trade deadline will be their best option than losing him in the summer of 2019 without getting anything in return.
Once he becomes available on the trading block, several NBA teams who are in dire need of a frontcourt boost will surely express strong interest in adding Nikola Vucevic to their roster. Aside from the improvement he made on his defense, Vucevic has also succeeded to make himself fit in the modern NBA by adding three-point shooting in his set of skills. In exchange for the veteran center, the Magic could at least demand a young player and a future first-round pick from interested teams.