Analysis: Nikola Vucevic to the NBA draft
March, 25, 2011
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Three interesting things about USC junior forward Nikola Vucevic's skipping his senior season to declare for the 2011 NBA draft and sign with an agent:
(1) He's hiring an agent.
The safe bet leading up to Friday's announcement would have been that Vucevic would declare for the draft but not sign with an agent, testing the waters and working out for teams on his own until the May 8 deadline for early entrants to stay or go.
He didn't do that, signing straight away with BDA Sports Management and Rade Filipovich. BDA Sports is run by Bill Duffy, one of the more prominent agents in the NBA, and Filipovich represents a lot of European NBA players, so the decision makes some sense.
It's also well worth noting that Filipovich has been friends with Vucevic's father since well before Nikola was born and has followed his development since his teenage years.
"It’s hard to do stuff on your own," Vucevic said. "It’s a lot easier if you have somebody that takes care of your schedule and schedules workouts and all that, and you just work."
(2) They're advertising him as a forward-center.
Vucevic is 6 feet 10 and about 260 pounds, prototypical size for a power forward in the NBA.
But, at Friday's news conference, both he and his agent -- plus USC coach Kevin O'Neill -- promoted the idea of Vucevic possibly playing center at the next level.
“Having been in the NBA, he’s gonna be able to guard 4s and 5s, which very, very few people can do," O'Neill said. "Nik’s gonna have a great advantage there, as it gives you a great opportunity as an NBA coach or GM to size down."
Vucevic said he'd like to gain about five pounds of muscle over the next month or so to be able to handle centers during pre-draft workouts.
“To play the five I’ll have to put some more weight on and become stronger,” Vucevic said. “But I believe I can play both positions in the NBA. It will take a lot of work for me to adjust to that level, but I believe I’m ready.”
(3) The Trojans think they can replace him fairly quickly.
O'Neill intimated shortly after the end of the 2010-2011 season that his squad next year would probably be about as good as this year's if Vucevic ended up leaving for the NBA draft.
He changed his tune a little bit Friday.
"It’s my job and our staff’s job to replace Nik, which won’t be easy," O'Neill said. "But we feel we have good players returning, we have good players sitting out, we have good players coming in.
"We feel like we’re gonna be better next year than this year – that’s how we’re approaching the whole thing."
O'Neill and the Trojans plan to recruit a junior-college forward to come in immediately in the summer and take over Vucevic's scholarship. They could also look toward players who decide to transfer from Division I schools or want out of signed letters of intent.
For his part, Vucevic says he thinks the Trojans will be able to replace him with guys like DeWayne Dedmon and Curtis Washington, who he complimented extensively.