The Orlando Magic and Nikola Vucevic reportedly are working to get a deal done, but if that doesn’t pan out in time for the beginning of free agency, it appears two teams are going to push pretty hard for the big man.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Boston Celtics are expected to “prioritize” Vucevic should he hit unrestricted free agency. Charania’s report came after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated both the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be in on Vucevic should his contract negotiations with Orlando fall apart.
Vucevic made his first All-Star team in 2018-19, averaging 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game during the regular season. Over the last two seasons he’s started to stretch out his shooting a little bit. After averaging 0.3 attempts from 3-point range per game over the first six seasons of his career, Vucevic swelled that number up to 3.2 the past two campaigns. Should he land with the Celtics, it seems like they’d continue trying to develop that area of his game, similarly to what the team did with Al Horford and, to a degree, Aron Baynes.
Speaking of Horford, Vucevic would represent a pretty solid replacement, as Horford reportedly is likely to leave the Celtics this offseason. In addition to largely better offensive numbers, Vucevic finished eighth in the league in defensive rating (103.3) last season, while Horford was at 107.
In moving Baynes’ salary off the books, the Celtics seem to be positioning themselves to sign a player on a big deal. Given the pending departures coupled with the players the Celtics already have in the organization, snagging Vucevic seems to make some sense.