Sixers fans probably remember Nikola Vucevic falling out of favor with Doug Collins at the end of his rookie season when he played just three total minutes in one appearance during the Sixers' playoff run, after appearing in 51 regular season games. In the regular season he averaged 5.5 points and five rebounds, playing 16 minutes a game.
But Collins would say otherwise, pointing to competition.
“We had some injuries; Elton Brand was out for a little while and Spencer [Hawes] and he and Lavoy [Allen] were getting the quality minutes,” Collins said. “We saw what he was capable of doing, and in the playoffs Lavoy sort of took those minutes from [Vucevic] when he played. We knew how skilled Nik was, and he is having a terrific year.”
Lavoy Allen averaged six points and five rebounds during the 2012 playoffs, but it was his defense on Kevin Garnett in the Eastern Conference Semifinals that stood out. His performance earned him a new contract this past summer. Unfortunately, this season has been a huge disappointment. He is averaging the same numbers, but has not improved as expected.
Meanwhile, Vucevic, after being dealt in the Andrew Bynum trade, has earned the starting center position for the Magic. He has doubled his minutes per game and as a result is averaging 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds.
Collins is not surprised by what Vucevic is doing. He was a big fan of the Montenegrin before the 2011 draft rolled around.
“At the Chicago draft camp, I saw him the first day, and I called back to Rod Thorn and I said 'I love Nik Vucevic; he's my guy,'” Collins recalled. “He's skilled. He is big. He has a great, sound base so you can't move him. He can shoot the ball.”
“I liked the fact that when he was in college every year he got better,” Collins continued. “The one thing that usually always transfers from college to pros is rebounding. If you can rebound usually you can rebound at any level. He has great hands, he has great timing. And he is not a great jumper, but he will follow a shot and he is really quick going back to get it.”
Vucevic attended the University of Southern California for three years. His sophomore season, he averaged 9.4 rebounds per game and the following year that number increased to 10.3.
It is understood to get value a team must give up the same. Unfortunately to date, what the Sixers valued (Bynum) has proven only to be damaged goods.
Note: Damien Wilkins will start on the perimeter with Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner this evening. Wilkins has 128 career starts but this will be his first with the Sixers.