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NBA scout on why USC's Nikola Vucevic will be a first-round pick: 'He clearly is a big man...and he has a game.'

June 23, 2011 |  2:38 pm

Usc3 Former USC junior forward Nikola Vucevic is expected to be drafted somewhere in the middle of the first round in Thursday's NBA draft, a boon for a player who, when he first declared, was thought to either be second-round material or perhaps even go undrafted. 

What helped Vucevic, who will be attending the draft, first shoot up the draft boards was how he measured out at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. 

There, he measured out a shade shorter than 7 feet at 6-11 3/4 in shoes -- the tallest there; was the second heaviest present at 260 pounds but had just 6% body fat; had the second longest standing reach at 9-4 1/2 (a half-inch bigger than former No.1 overall pick Greg Oden); and, to boot, had the second-best wingspan at 7-4 1/2.

But after that, he had some very good interviews and performed well in individual workouts with teams too.

Here's the opinion of one NBA scout, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to publicly discuss college players, on Vucevic and why he'll be a first-round draft pick:

-- "He's a wonderful kid. He's going to knock the socks off coaches and GMs when they sit down and interview him."

-- "He clearly is a big man, No. 1, and No. 2, he has a game. It's not like he's a stiff and he can't play. He's posted up numbers that are impressive at USC and have gotten better and better every year."

-- "He's not a gazelle. He's not the most athletically gifted player in the draft. I wouldn't consider him playing above the rim. But he's still effective and still produces because he knows what he is and he knows what he can't do, which I think lends to his basketball smarts."

To the scout's point about Vucevic improving, the numbers reflect that heavily. 

He went from barely playing as a freshman, when he averaged 2.6 points, to becoming the Pacific 10 Conference's Most Improved Player as a sophomore, when he averaged 10.7 points and 9.4 rebounds, to becoming a Pac-10 All-First-Team player last season, when he averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds.

For more on Vucevic, who's the son of a basketball legend, here's some background

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Mark Heisler's NBA mock draft

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-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Nikola Vucevic. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

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