Draft Profile: Nikola Vucevic

Next up in our draft profile series is Nikola Vucevic, who is Chad Ford's pick for the Celtics. The Celtics need size and Vucevic definitely has size. He is a legit 7 footer (well, actually 6' 11.75") and has a 7' 4.5" wing span and a 9' 4.5" standing reach (1/2 inch longer than Greg Oden's). He ranked as the tallest player at the recent draft combine. In spite of also being the heaviest at 260 lbs, he had just 6% body fat. His wing span and standing reach were also the largest of any of the 53 players at the combine. In the athletic testing at the combine, however, he tested 50th out of 53 players with just Jordan Williams, Jamie Skeen, and DeAndre Liggins testing out lower. His max vertical leap was just 25 inches, among the 5 worst at the combine. Vucevic has size and muscle, but if Danny is looking for athleticism, Vucevic isn't his guy.

Basketball runs in the Vucevic family as Nikola's father, Borislav, played basketball professionally in Europe for 24 years. He played for the Bosna club team, for the Yugoslavia national team, in Switzerland, where Nikola was born, and in Belgium. He averaged 20 points per game over his career. Borislav hadn't seen Nikola play since he was 16, but he came from their home in Bar, Montenegro, in late February of this year to watch four USC games. USC won them all behind Nikola's play.  His mother also played professional basketball in Bosnia.

Entering the combine, Vucevic was under the radar and considered by most to be a late second round pick. He was so impressive in the workouts there that he is now projected to go in the 10-25 range so it isn't even certain that he would still be on the board when the Celtics pick at 25. He has already worked out for several teams in the 10-15 range. The Spurs, who pick 29rh are reportedly very interested in the 20-year-old Vucevic, as are Phildelphia, Charlotte, New York and New Jersey.

Some might be surprised by his draft stock's sudden rise, but that's not that unusual for Vucevic. He went from barely playing as a freshman, when he averaged 2.6 points, to becoming the Pacific 10 Conference's Most Improved Player as a sophomore, when he averaged 10.7 points and 9.4 rebounds, to becoming a Pac-10 All-First-Team player last season, when he averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds. So, going from an unknown, unheralded player coming into the combine to a hot prospect afterwards is just the way Vucevic's career has gone so far.

The mock drafts have him going anywhere from #16 to the second round. Several analysts have him pegged as the sleeper of the draft. NBADraft.com and Chad Ford's ESPN mock drafts predict that the Celtics will take him at #25.
Ford included this blurb with his pick:
The Celtics need size and Vucevic was one of the players who helped his draft stock the most the past week in Chicago. His measurements were off the charts and gave teams hope he could be a legit NBA center. Given his skill in the post, he could be a steal at this point in the draft.
Vucevic has a nice soft touch around the basket with a right-handed hook shot with range to 10 feet that is very consistent.  He has a nice face up game with some range and his long arms allow him to play even bigger than he is (which is very big). He is also a solid rebounder, which the Celtics very much could use.  He’s a prototypical European big man in that he does alot of things well, especially when it comes to fundamentals.  On the other side, as stated previously, he isn't a great athlete and is not a great ball handler. If he is still available when the Celtics pick, he might be just what the Celtics need.

You can check out all of Celtics Life draft coverage here.