The NBA Substance Report: #23 Out of 30 - Nikola Vucevic

Hey everybody, this is Jack Martin aka Jack Sparkin' aka Jack the Martian aka The Flow. Ralph wanted me to let everyone know that I'm taking over for him because he's "an international PAWG Hunter of the 20th century without cellular connection." While he's off trekking international waters for the PAWG of his dreams, I'll fill out this series with some thoughts of my own. With that being said, here's the Substance Report.

To all of the loyal The Fro and The Flow podcast fans out there, I'm sure you're aware that Jack Martin and I have a nearly-weekly segment titled Watch The Throne (Yes, the segment is inspired by the greatest collaboration of all-time, Watch The Throne, by Jay-Z and Kanye West).

During this podcast segment, Jack Sparkin' and I break down the most talented basketball players in the world at that current moment by ranking them 1-15 (Think of it like this: If you were to start an NBA team today from scratch, zilch, nada, who would be the first player that you'd choose to help you win if they were all available?).

Because Jack and I are so dedicated to watching, observing, and sucking however much milk we can out of the NBA's utter, and are also two separate human beings, we have some disagreements every so often.

This daily column over the next 23 days will be relatively similar to that segment. The biggest, and most important difference is that this cluster fuck of a ranking will be an attempt towards breaking down the most valuable players in the NBA in accordance with how vital they are to their team's success (say, if you took Stephen Curry off of the Golden State Warriors, would they still be able to win a championship this season? Or if you took Giannis off of the Bucks would they win 45 games? And other hypothetical things of that nature).

23. Nikola "Diet Jokic" Vucevic

Jack: I'll be honest, I haven't seen that much of Nikola Vucevic this season, mainly because you'd probably have to pay me to watch a Magic game. They've been a surprisingly alright team this year and somehow are only 1.5 games back of the eighth-seed out East, but they're the Magic. Unless Terrence Ross is snapping for 45, I'm not really interested. Mo Bamba is an interesting prospect, but the Magic don't have a great history of retaining franchise-changing centers, and a stress fracture in his left leg has me nervous about his longevity.

This isn't about the Magic, however, but rather their All-Star center, Nikola Vucevic. His new nickname "Diet Jokic" gifted to him by Ralph is perfectly fitting (with a few less assists). The craziest thing to me about Vucevic isn't that he was an All-Star or that he's averaging 20-12-4 or this close to getting Orlando to its first playoff appearance since 2012; he was acquired by the Magic in the Dwight Howard trade. Out of all of the moving pieces and failed fits that came about in that blockbuster, only Vucevic has worked out long-term for his "new" team. He's averaged a double-double or near D-D in every season since being acquired by Orlando and has sneakily been one of the most consistent centers in the league over that stretch. Being stuck on a lowly team like the Magic for so long has quieted his national media coverage, but this year has obviously been different. With the talent distribution in the league favoring the Western Conference this year, a spot in the All-Star Game was opened up for a deserving player to earn a chance to represent their team, and that's exactly what Vucevic did this year.

If the Magic make the playoffs, look for Vucevic to get heavily overpaid by the Knicks or another team desperate to add a bigger name. While he's certainly earned himself a big payday and greater recognition, Vucevic is going to likely pop up on a few "worst contract" lists after he gets the Knicks to a 22-60 record for the next three seasons.

I don't know why I ended that on such a negative note, Vucevic has been killing it this year. Good for him, and if there are any Magic fans reading this, I hope you make the playoffs. It's been a brutal stretch post-Dwight.