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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: USC C Nikola Vucevic

06.06.11 at 12:11 pm ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Nikola Vucevic

Position: Center

Team: University of Southern California

Height: 7-foot

Weight: 260 pounds

Stats: 17.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg

What he brings: Nikola Vucevic may be a European center, but unlike many before him he’s not an unknown commodity. He played his senior year of high school at Stoneridge Prep (Simi Valley, Calif.) before earning a scholarship to USC.

After averaging just 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman, he captured Pac-10 Most Improved Player honors in his sophomore campaign and produced 17.1 points (50.5 FG%, 34.9 3-PT FG% & 75.5 FT%), 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 blocks before declaring for the draft after his junior season.

The tallest player at the 2011 NBA combine, Vucevic possesses a lot of qualities generally associated with European bigs — touch around the rim, a reliable mid-range jump shot (as well as developing 20-foot-plus range) and a lack of athleticism. He’s been criticized for his failure to play “above the rim” and his lack of success against athletic NBA-caliber big men. However, his high motor, particularly on the defensive glass, has separated him a bit from the stereotype.

More skilled than a guy like Semih Erden, Vucevic is expected to be a valuable backup center in the NBA — a role the Celtics most definitely need to fill. Touted for his high character, Vucevic has hinted that he may play in Europe for a year should a lockout threaten the 2011-12 NBA season, and such experience could actually serve the still-developing center well.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round.

What they’re saying: “His strength, his conditioning, and the key, for me, for Nik to make it in the NBA, he has to become a proficient NBA 3-point shooter, which is a much harder shot than the college 3. And he’€™s not a totally proficient college 3-point shooter, yet. He’€™s got to be shooting four times a week, 1,000 NBA 3s a day. That’€™s what he needs.” — USC coach Kevin O’Neill

Notes: The Swiss-born Vucevic was raised in Belgium before moving to Montenegro as a teenager. Both of his parents — father Borislav and mother Ljiljana — played both professionally and for the Yugoslavian men’s and women’s national teams, as chronicled in this LA Times piece. Vucevic himself has played for the Montenegro U20 national team, averaging 15.5 points and 10.8 rebounds during the 2009 European Championships. Oh, and Vucevic, who said he would want to be an actor if he weren’t a basketball player (hence, USC), learned English partly as a result of watching “Love & Basketball” over and over.

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Read More: 2011 NBA Draft, Boston Celtics, NBA Draft, Nikola Vucevic
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