It’s not often that cellar dwelling teams’ players are given the nods over those on contending teams, but Orlando Magic fans have to wonder when the team’s rising stars are going to become actual All-Stars. Both Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic appeared in the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star weekend, but neither has really received league-wide accolades for being anything other than “pretty decent, on a bad team.”
Andrew Nicholson still has a lot of strides to make as a player, but Vucevic and late-comer Tobias Harris may offer significant prospects of being a 2014 NBA All-Star.
Harris didn’t even join the frontcourt tandem of Vucevic and Nicholson in the event. Harris lingered in obscurity on the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench before Rob Hennigan snatched his career from the jaws of death…and the strong combo forward averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game with the Magic. Harris is a powerfully built 6’8″ and has drawn some comparisons to Carmelo Anthony.
Like Melo, Harris uses his strong body to bully smaller forwards, or against bigger opponents, simply drives right around them. He’s typified talent in today’s era for a power forward, and could represent the Magic’s best chance at having an All-Star this season.
Nikola Vucevic was perhaps equally as surprising as Harris. Vucevic set a single game record for rebounds (29) against the Miami Heat, and from the mid-point of December until the season’s end, he led the league in rebounding. The Magic began last season not even sure whether they would start Vucevic or the departed Gustavo Ayon, but Vucevic soon made it clear he would be the 5-man that Hennigan could build around.
Vucevic doesn’t look like a guy who would be much on the court when you see him, but he’s surprisingly coordinated with
his footwork and touch around the basket. He has a knack for getting to rebounds. And he’s playing in a weak era for traditional 5-men. The result could be that Vucevic has his way on the glass again this season, and he could potentially lead the league in rebounding. Would that be enough to make the squad?
Looking at last year’s Eastern Conference starters, there are some locks in the frontcourt. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah are all likely to be back. But that leaves three spots up for grabs, or maybe two, depending on whether Kevin Garnett decides to play. Injuries are of course an x-factor, and either Vucevic or Harris could make it on that grounds.
Brook Lopez was an injury replacement last year after finishing just 14th in frontcourt voting. Because coaches select the reserves (and David Stern selects injury replacements), merit based selections give both of the Magic’s studs a chance at making the game next season. In other words, the Magic’s lack of exposure may not matter much if the league’s coaches are impressed by the young talent on the roster.
Weigh in, Magic fans, who is more likely to make the All-Star team this season, Vucci Mane or Tobias On Fire?