Mar 22, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter (0) defends against Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 89-88. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Should The Orlando Magic Extend Nikola Vucevic This Fall?

The Orlando Magic’s man in the middle, Nikola Vucevic, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, a deal that will pay him just over $2,750,000. There’s no doubting that Vucevic is a talented player, and one who has yet to reach his ceiling in the league. After only three years in the NBA, Vucevic is already considered one of the top rebounders in the association, thanks to his strong showings on the boards in his first two years with the Magic. Vucevic has also seen steady improvements in multiple facets of his game during his three year’s in the league.

Despite a plethora of injuries, and a slight drop in rebounding, Vucevic saw his numbers improve in other areas during the 2013-14 season. For the third straight year, the seven-footer saw his Player Efficiency Rate (PER) and True Shooting Percentage (TS%) rise, while also scoring the ball more.

 

Points  

PER  

TS%

2011-12  

5.5

14.3

46.2

2012-13

13.1

17.8

53.4

2013-14

14.2

18.8

53.6

 

The seven foot Montenegrin has stated that he is amenable to extending his contract with the Magic, while  recent reports suggest that the Magic have agreed to meet with Vucevic’s representation and broach the subject. That leaves us to ponder, should the Magic extend Vucevic before the October 31st deadline or should they wait until next Summers free agency period? Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both.

The case for waiting until next summer

We’ve established that Vucevic has value to the Magic, and they could consider him one of their core pieces of the future, they have little reason to extend his contract before next Summer’s free agency period.

  • In what is known in NBA circles as “bidding against yourself,” the Magic could actually overpay for Vucevic’s services. A quick refresher in NBA economics 101, states Vucevic’s value is based not only on his overall talent and skill, but an array of other variables. Primarily, the availability of cap space throughout the league, as well as good old fashioned supply and demand. How many centers are available and how many teams have a void at that position? This is where the Magic clearly have an advantage.
  • In the Summer of 2015, there could be a host of free agent competitors to Vucevic. Defensive stalwarts Marc Gasol, Roy HibbertOmer AsikDeAndre JordanTyson Chandler and Robin Lopez, along with the offensively gifted Brook Lopez and the young Enes Kanter, could all join Vucevic in free agency next Summer. In addition to his free agent competition, Vucevic will be vying against the most unprecedented group of center prospects since the 2006 NBA draft where 13 of the first 38 picks in that draft were centers. The 2015 draft looks to be very deep at center and could even surpass that mark. Taking these factors into account, it would behoove the Magic to let the market set the price for Vucevic’s services.

The case for extending Vucevic this Fall

Even though there are factors that would make it logical for the Magic to wait on extending Vucevic, there are also several reasons why it would be beneficial for the Magic to offer Vucevic an extension this Fall.

  • First, by signing Vucevic this Fall, they could extend him for a full five years. This could be an advantage over matching another teams four-year offer sheet next Summer. The CBA dictates that each team may extend one of it’s own players who’s rookie contract is expiring for a total of five years. If a team has extended a rookie deal for five years, they may only offer four year extensions to other players on their rookie deals. With the Magic being a team that is loaded with rookie contracts, they should select the player that they deem most valuable to receive the coveted five year extension. If the Magic view Vucevic as a piece of it’s core moving forward, he could be a candidate for the five year extension.
  • The Magic are trying to establish a new identity. Many believe that they’re trying to follow a script written by the San Antonio Spurs. They are looking for players that are of high character, hard working, bring your lunch pail to practice type mentality. The Magic are trying to establish a culture of loyalty, where a player will take a hometown discount to help the organization keep a core group of players together.
  • It’s been philosophized that to garner respect for yourself, it has to be given first. By offering Vucevic a fair market deal this Fall, the Magic could not only signal to Vucevic, but the entire league, that the Orlando Magic are the type of organization that knows how to treat a player with respect!

The next two months will speak volumes to how the Magic feel about their man in the middle moving forward. Does Rob Hennigan view Vucevic as a core building piece and franchise center of the future? Do the Magic view Vucevic as an asset they collected as a by-product of the Dwight Howard trade?

I’m very torn on his long-term fit with the Magic. Part of me feels that he doesn’t fit with the uptempo, athletic, lob city of the East, Spurs/Thunder hybrid that Rob Hennigan seams to building. The other part of me sees Nik Vucevic as a highly skilled and talented center in this league. When taking all this into account, I believe the Magic will go against conventional wisdom and sign Vucevic to a five-year extension. I would love to hear how many of you see this playing out. I look forward to reading some of your comments below.  My prediction 5-years for $55-60 million. 

Tags: Contract Extension Nikola Vucevic Orlando Magic

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