Kings Free Agency Target Profile: Nikola Vucevic
Welcome to KHTK’s Kings free agency profiles! Here we’ll be breaking down some of the top players the Kings should target in free agency, analyzing their career numbers, fit with the Kings and potential downsides. We’ll also assign a priority score to each player, signifying how strongly the Kings should consider pursuing a given free agent.
Drafted No. 16 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011, Nikola Vucevic enjoyed his first All-Star season in 2018-19. The 28-year-old center improved in almost every offensive category last season, including points (20.8), rebounds (12.0), assists (3.8) and three-point field goal percentage (36.4). Over the span of his eight-year career, the seven-footer holds career averages of 15.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.9 blocks per game.
Vucevic was a top-10 rebounder in the NBA last season, finishing eighth in that category, and also ranked 10th in win shares. He led the Orlando Magic to a their first playoff appearance since 2011-12.
Sacramento is looking to do two things next season: run and shoot a lot of threes. As far as pace, Vucevic is slower than some of the bigs the Kings ran out at center last season. While he may lack elite speed, Vucevic’s excellent rebounding can benefit Sacramento immensely. His 2.8 offensive rebounds per game would help create second-chance points off of missed threes.
Vucevic could also help in the half court. He’s a force in the paint in all aspects. He’s a good passer who can find open shooters on the perimeter, but he can also score thanks to his well-rounded offensive skill set.
Last season, Vucevic shot 69.7 percent at the rim and 52.6 percent from within 10 feet of the basket. Pairing him with Marvin Bagley III would give the Kings two elite rebounders and inside scorers in the front court who could both average 20 points and 10 rebounds in the front court.
There is no question that Vucevic is an elite talent who would surely make the Sacramento Kings a better team. So, what could possibly be the catch?
Vucevic is entering free agency for the first time in his career after wrapping up the final season of the four-year, $48 million deal he signed back in 2015. It will cost a pretty penny for the Kings to pry arguably the best big on the market from the likes of the Orlando Magic. They are rumored to be interested in retaining the eight-year veteran. Dallas is another possible suitor. It’s going to take a big offer if Sacramento wants a shot at acquiring the All-Star center — one that could be in the range of four years and over $100 million.
Vlade Divac knows the Kings have great young talent and are only a few pieces away from challenging the rest of the Western Conference for a playoff spot. While mixed rumors have risen about the Kings’ legitimate interest in the All-Star, expect Divac to kick the tires on Vucevic as Sacramento eyes postseason contention in 2019-20.
Upgrading the center position is an absolute necessity for the Kings this summer, right behind inking Harrison Barnes to a new contract. Vucevic is the best player on the market at that position. The Kevin Durants, Kyrie Irvings and Kawhi Leonards will be the big names this summer, but Sacramento can realistically pursue Vucevic and attempt to lure him out of Orlando.
The price tag will be steep, but acquiring a center of Vucevic’s caliber will only solidify the Kings as playoff contenders in the brutal Western Conference. With Anthony Davis joining the Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard already rumored to be meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers on July 2, Sacramento will need to make a splash this summer if they want to keep their momentum moving forward.
Priority Score: 9/10