The end of the year is here and so calendar-year player awards are coming out. Quite unexpectedly, the Magic's young center Nikola Vucevic is up for a major, major award.
Despite a disappointing and frustrating Eurobasket appearance, Nikola Vucevic is among 10 candidates for FIBA Europe's Men's Player of the Year. The list of nominees include Spurs guard Tony Parker, Suns guard Goran Dragic, Pistons rookie and Italian star Luigi Datome and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.
Even if Vucevic does not end up winning the award, to be considered among the 10 best players in Europe right now is a huge honor for the 23-year-old Montenegrin.
Filling the shoes of a franchise player when they skip town for the brighter lights elsewhere is never an easy task, but Montenegrin big man Nikola Vucevic went a long way to patch up the gaping hole left inside the Orlando paint when Dwight Howard jumped ship, finishing the 2012/13 NBA regular season with a 13.1-point, 11.9-rebound double-double average. Vucevic's impact at EuroBasket was limited as Montenegro bade farewell to Slovenia following the opening round but he has returned to Orlando to continue his habit of collecting double-doubles.
Vucevic averaged 13.1 points per game and 11.9 rebounds per game last year in his first season in Orlando. He has built off that this year, showing an expanded offensive and defensive game in averaging 14.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game this season. His absence these past four games have been very noticeable for a team lacking much interior presence.
Eurobasket was a disappointing experience for Vucevic as he struggled to get on his coach's good side and averaged only 7.0 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game in 15.0 minutes per game. Coach Luka Pavicevic and Vucevic had a reported disagreement about how Vucevic prepared for Eurobasket mainly in Orlando. Vucevic has not wanted to get into it when asked about his Eurobasket experience except to say he hopes he can represent Montenegro again.
A good showing in FIBA Europe Player of the Year would certainly accomplish that.
Fans can enter their vote at FIBAEurope.com or by clicking on this link. You vote for your first, second and third place recipients.
This should be the appetizer for any votes Nikola Vucevic might receive for the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. You can still vote for him -- and for Arron Afflalo -- on NBA.com or by tweeting their name with the hashtag #NBABallot. Vucevic certainly should be in the running for a spot with Roy Hibbert getting the clear bench spot at center (Vucevic is fighting off Chris Bosh, I bet, with Al Jefferson in the discussion).