The Washington Wizards’ 42nd overall selection in the 2023 NBA Draft, Tristan Vukcevic is showing impressive skill level in the Las Vegas Summer League. Getting the start in the center position in both games so far, the Serbian big man has showcased his passing, touch, and overall feel of the game.
The 20-year-old center who spent last season with the Euroleague club Partizan has had a whirlwind of a summer. After winning the domestic league in Serbia on June 22, Vukcevic immediately joined the Wizards mini-training camp without much rest. But that hasn’t shown so far in Las Vegas.
Vukcevic is averaging 11.5 points, 7 rebounds, and a block on 40% shooting from the field in 22.5 minutes in two games. His offensive impact has been greater than his stat line.
In the two Summer League games, Vukcevic has been the best passer on the team. His passes haven’t been converted to assists by his teammates, but Vukcevic’s ability to find cutters from the high post has been spectacular. His court vision combined with his 6’11 frame makes him a very intriguing offensive center.
His skill set on offense goes beyond his passing. He is a smooth, skilled big man who can score in a variety of ways. In the game against Boston, he showcased a beautiful euro-step in transition for a basket. His three-ball hasn’t fallen yet, as he is 1/7 from beyond the arc so far, but his shooting stroke and confidence suggest that he should at least be an average three-point shooter for his position.
Yet, Vukcevic’s finesse can also be his weakness. He relies on his skill too often rather than using his size and physicality. He almost always pops instead of rolling after a screen. He prefers to shoot three-pointers rather than attack the paint. He hasn’t perfected the art of using his body yet, so he avoids contact as much as possible.
This weakness shows up on the defensive end as well. He can be pushed around in the paint, as demonstrated by Isaiah Jackson against Indiana, and Udoka Azubuike against Boston. His lack of quickness makes him only suitable for a drop coverage on defense, but his lack of physicality and vertical leap makes him not great at that either. He can get better at boxing out and rising for defensive rebounds.
However, all of this is completely fine. Defense for big men takes a while to learn and perfect in the NBA. Especially for a 20-year-old center who is coming from Europe, a learning curve is to be expected. Vukcevic will get stronger, faster, and adjust to the NBA pace.
Summer League is all about showing flashes. Vukcevic is not a perfect prospect by any means, but he has certainly shown more than enough flashes. His skill level and his smooth and natural basketball ability are solid building blocks to become an NBA-caliber player.
Let’s hope he continues this momentum for the rest of the summer and becomes a part of the Wizards rotation going forward.