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What is the market for Nikola Vucevic?

2013 December 10
by Brian Serra


After missing the last four  games, Nik Vucevic is proving his value more by being off the court than on it. Orlando’s rebounding rate has dropped from eighth in the league with Vucevic on the floor, to dead last over the last four games with him out. Despite Vuc being at just the beginning of his third year in the league, the team is currently evaluating his long-term impact to the franchise and the inevitable long term deal that will be required to retain him.

Vucevic will be eligible for a contract extension for the first time this summer. Last summer, three impact big men signed extensions that will all kick in this coming summer (Larry Sanders, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins), essentially setting the market for future deals. Of course, if the Magic choose not to extend Vucevic this summer then they would still be able to match any offers he would get in the Summer of 2015 as a restricted free agent.

    2013-14 Salary
 $           8,374,646   Asik
 $         10,986,550
  D. Jordan
 $         11,000,000
 $         11,100,000
 $         12,000,000   Horford
 $         12,100,000
 $         12,833,333
 $         13,500,000   Jefferson
 $         13,701,250
  Cousins*   Max 
 $         14,693,906
  Bropez   Max
 $         14,283,844
  Hibbert   Max 
 $         14,100,537

*Salary for the first year of their extension, 2014-2015

Players like Joakim Noah and Al Horford signed early extensions and their teams were able to lock them up long-term on contracts that look tremendous now. Nikola Pekovic and Roy Hibbert both hit the open market as restricted free agents and were signed to bigger deals.

On the flip side, Derrick Favors and LARRY SANDERS! – both much more unproven than Vucevic, but with arguably more upside… defensively at least- signed early extensions higher than they are realistically worth today. Both teams took on risk that these players would develop into cornerstone players for their teams. Meanwhile, the Pistons chose not to extend Greg Monroe last summer in a similar situation as they wanted to see a year of Monroe/Drummond together before commiting big to Monroe.

Different teams have different reasons for extending. Under the previous regime, Otis Smith was a believer in letting the restricted market set a fair price and then he would choose to match or not. A lot of the decision to commit long term money to Vucevic will depend on the framework of the roster this summer.  How much flexibility does the franchise want to retain moving into the summer of ’15 when they will have boatloads of cap space.

The max offer the Magic can extend to Nik Vucevic this summer will be 25% of the total salary cap., which would be similar to the deal that Boogie Cousins received. However, it’s unlikely that the Magic would make a franchise commitment to Vucevic the way the Kings did to DMC. A more realistic offer this summer would be a 4-year, $12M deal similar to the one Al Horford signed a few years back. If Vucevic wants the security, he’ll sign. If not, he can go out and prove himself for one more year and let the restricted market set his true value. And keep in mind, what a player is offered – or even eventually gets – is rarely the true indicator of their value to a team.

For the Magic, their best bet is to leave the negotiations loose. While Vucevic has proven to be an extremely valuable contributor, he likely will never be the second best player on a great team. Let the #process play out.

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