NBA Most Improved Player Award: Is Orlando Magic Center Nikola Vucevic Commanding Enough Respect?

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Apr 15, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) attempts to score as Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler (21) and power forward Carlos Boozer (5) defend during the third quarter at Amway Center. Chicago defeated Orlando 102-84. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

One of the downsides of playing for a rebuilding team is that it takes a little longer for people to take notice of how good you are. Nikola Vucevic was the second-to-last big man selected by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal in their two-man draft for the Rising Stars Challenge.

This is the same Magic seven-foot center who grabbed 29 boards against the Miami Heat; the same man who finished the season ranked No. 2 in the league in rebounding.

Vucevic dominated especially in the second half of the season, and he led the league in rebounding from mid-December though April, illustrating that his length and knack for chasing down the ball is going to make him a top flight NBA center.

Truly, Vucevic’s improvement was an overnight phenomenon, and presumably the fact it happened so quick helped it evade the notice of media heads throughout the league. Vucevic finished fourth in Most Improved Player voting, but easily could have taken the award.

Nik is proof of Magic GMs Rob Hennigan’s scouting prowess. The USC product posted a double-double per-36 in limited minutes last season for the Philadelphia 76ers, but if the team had it to do over, Philly would almost certainly prefer Vucevic as their starting 5-man to Andrew Bynum.

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