Nik Vucevic Proving Dwight Howard Trade Not So Lopsided

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2013

Dec 21, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) during their game against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Magic 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Losing a superstar like Dwight Howard always hurts, but the Orlando Magic are feeling a little less pain over D12’s departure lately, thanks to Nikola Vucevic.

Acquired in the four-team trade along with Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo, Josh McRoberts, Moe Harkless and Christian Eyenga, Vucevic has turned out to be a real find. At 7’0” and 240 pounds he’s got the size to do serious damage inside, not to mention dominate on the glass.

The  22-year-old manchild proved the latter with a monstrous, 29-rebound performance in an overtime loss to the Miami Heat on Dec. 31.

Chris Bosh, who was frequently pinned right behind Vucevic for good portion of those 29 pulls, had a pretty good view of the action. He provided what could be the understatement of the century after the game.

Chris Bosh discussing Nik Vucevic's 29 rebounds: "He did a pretty good job on the boards."

— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) January 1, 2013

And even though the Heat aren't exactly known as a great rebounding team, the fact that Vucevic almost topped the defending champs' entire total of boards warrants a mention, too.

Nikola Vucevic had 29 rebounds against Miami. Entire Heat team had 33.

— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) January 1, 2013

In addition to excellent glass-cleaning skills, the Orlando center has a surprisingly sweet touch in the mid-range area. He hits 54 percent of his shots from 10-15 feet, which is the best of any center who shoots at least once per game from that distance.

Of course, he also uses his size at the rim, where he shoots 65 percent.

Though he may have been considered something of an afterthought in the whole Howard trade saga, Vucevic has the look of a player who could carry on the tradition of stellar center play in Orlando. He's currently averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds on 50 percent shooting, and those numbers have skyrocketed over the last 10 games.

In that most recent stretch, he's tossing up 13.4 points and 14 rebounds per game on nearly 56 percent shooting.

At his age, there's still a ton of room for growth. But even if he simply sustains his current level of production, Vucevic is making the trade that sent Howard away from Orlando look like a pretty decent deal.