Portland Trail Blazers Draft Possibilities: Nikola Vucevic

All this week we'll be talking about potential Portland moves (in-draft and out) as a lead up to Thursday's festivities.  Today we're taking a look at USC Junior center Nikola Vucevic.

Is it possible?

Totally.  Vucevic may not be taken before the Blazers select with their natural #21 pick.  Even if a team had him targeted earlier they could probably jimmy their way to him with a swap and some cash if they wanted him badly enough.

What Would Vucevic Offer?

Size is the most obvious commodity.  Listed between 6'10" and 7'0" and a solid 260 he's the tallest and heaviest player in this year's draft.    He's the kind of player who does everything pretty well.  He hits his shots, post and even a little bit of face-up.  He has a jumper out to 20 feet at least.  He can pass adequately.  He can rebound well enough.  He's not what you'd call agile but he's not a slow stiff by any means.  He's the kind of guy who would fit in a team concept.  You'd not call plays for him nor expect him to dominate.  Instead he'd be that guy who made you say, "Oh yeah, I get it" when your wings found him for an outlet jumper or when you looked up and the end of the game and saw he had 10 quiet rebounds.  DraftExpress cites his work ethic and the ongoing evolution of his game as pluses as well.

Along with that certain lack of agility, a quick review of his games reveals that he gets too many rebounds and attempts too many shots around the bucket below the rim...a serious no-no for anybody considering playing inside in the NBA.  It's not how tall you are, it's how high you can get.  Vucevic needs work on using his body as well.  He seemed to grab rebounds because he was bigger than others.  That's not going to be the case in the NBA.  He needs to learn leverage and body control.  He's likely to get schooled big time in his first few battles at the next level.  Even that jumper is going to be questionable, as he needs space and time to get it off that 6'10" real NBA players aren't going to give him...not that they'll be focused on him.

Also you have the eternal question, "If he's approaching 7-feet and has game, why is he going this low?"  This isn't any kind of lock-tight pick or diamond in the rough.  This would be a pick that everybody before you has scrutinized and passed up.  That's not a sure sign of doom but it moderates expectations.  You're not getting a 7-foot lottery pick.  You're getting a guy who doesn't quite give enough of anything that you're hoping can develop into a serviceable player, likely off the bench.

What Would Drafting Vucevic mean?

It's probably as simple as you need a possible center and one was available.  If the Blazers are going to move Marcus Camby they'll take any warm body approaching that 7-foot mark.  They'll not mind a team player.  They'll not mind a guy projected to play 12-20 minutes a game even at his best.  At #21 they'd be lucky to get both in a player that size.  If they think Vucevic has any chance they'd have to at least think about him.  There's also a chance he could be developed in Europe without cost for the next couple of years, perhaps adding to his attraction providing nobody of more immediate impact was available.

The Bottom Line

This guy wouldn't set the world on fire but he might plug a hole in the boat.  He's one of the least likely guys in the draft to get the crazy hype train going but he might be the right mix of risk and solid reward to pique interest.

Your thoughts?  If the Blazers picked Vucevic at #21 or close how would you feel?  Weigh in below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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