Nikola Vucevic is a name that few Knick fans have heard of, but the 7-foot Swiss born center out of Montenegro is someone whose buzz is escalating as the draft nears.
Vucevic moved over to the United States prior to his senior year of high school and elected to play his collegiate ball at USC. This past season at USC, his junior season, Vucevic posted a stat-line of 17.1 ppg/ 10.3 rpg/ 1.6 apg/ 1.4 bpg. His best game in college was against Arizona, which is led by Derrick Williams, where he scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Vucevic measured as the tallest and heaviest attendee of the recent draft combine, where he impressed many scouts. He left the scouts pondering what separated him from Enes Kanter, a prospect slated to go in the top five.
Currently he is projected to go in the late first round.
Scouting Report: Vucevic has a solid inside/outside game. He is skilled with his back to the basket and this past season at USC, he showed range from 20 feet with his jump shot. Whether it is off a catch-and-shoot, or a pick-and-roll Nikola is comfortable enough with his jump shot to launch it when he is given space.
Vucevic is quick for his size. He has the ability to take defenders off the dribble and finish at the rim. In the post, Vucevic displays solid footwork and is skilled enough to go right or left.
Vucevic is regarded as an average defender and has a reputation to play below the rim. Although one would think that his above average wingspan should help him on the defensive end, his lack of athleticism simply does not allow him to be a high flyer (his vertical is only 23.5 inches). Vucevic is solid on the boards, averaging 10.3 rpg this past season, but scouts are unsure about his ability to grab rebounds when he will battle against some of the more high flying big men in the NBA.
Judging The Fit: The biggest void on the Knicks roster is at the center position. Drafting Nikola Vucevic would certainly fill that need. Vucevic would immediately be second on the depth chart at the center position behind the often injured, Ronny Turiaf. Vucevic would excel in Mike D’Antoni’s system as his above average jumper and finishing ability would make him an excellent player to run the Pick-and-Roll with. Coach D’Antoni’s system is also reliant on spreading the floor and Vucevic would be a good fit in regards to this because of his ability to operate in the 15-20 foot range.
However, their is some concern that Vucevic may not be the right center to place next to Amare Stoudemire. Vucevic has a reputation of playing below the rim and is not a good help defender. Ideally it is thought the Knicks would like a defensive minded player who can block shots and do the dirty work on the glass to place next to Stoudemire, Unfortunately, scouts do not project Vucevic being this.
The Verdict: Drafting Nikola Vucevic would definitely fit a need for the Knicks and potentially give the Knicks their center for the future. However, the question here is whether it is the best choice to place a center next to Stoudemire who has a reputation of playing below the rim and is not a noteworthy defender. Furthermore, drafting Vucevic may be considered a slight reach at 17 as he is slated to go in the 21-25 range.
Personally out of all the prospects I would like the Knicks to draft Vucevic. I believe he is a tailor made center for this system and it would be a mistake to pass on him. He would also give the Knicks a young big man who would be a valuable trade chip in a trade for say Chris Paul.
All things considered I give Vucevic a 20% chance of being the pick at 17 but this number could skyrocket if some of the Knicks favorites like Fredette are off the board.