Who’s the Nurkic on the Block?

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Jusuf Nurkic

Starting center of the Portland Trailblazers, Jusuf Nurkic, just put up a wild stat line and set 4 career highs. He had a similar night two days ago when he helped his team get past Oklahoma City Thunder. In only his eighth game with the team, the 7-foot Nurkic dropped 28 points, 8 assists, 20 rebounds, and 6 blocks, a stat line only matched by Charles Barkley. This kind of statline may seem familiar to us with Russell Westbrook averaging a triple double for the season. Let’s take a moment to examine what this means for the future.

To look into the future we must first understand the past. This adventure begins In Denver Colorado, home to the
Nuggets. As the 16th pick out of Bosnia in the 2014 draft, there were mixed opinions on Nurkic’s talent and his ability to deal in the NBA.  The doubt about him only grew when he stepped on the hardwood especially having to split minutes with other draft picks Veterans J.J Hickson, Kenneth Faried and Nikola Jokic.

Nikola Jokic is another one of the “Unicorn” type young big men. A played out term but still he fits the bill. Jokic can handle the ball, he can run the offense, he can score in the paint and he’ll knock it down from 25 feet if you’re slacking. But up until this year the Nuggets had been trying to find a way to play Nurkic and Jokic together while still favoring Jokic over Nurkic.

After losing his starting role, reports came out that he was distraught. Then on February 12th the Nuggets traded Nurkic to the Trailblazers for Mason Plumlee. The Nuggets also gave up a first round pick just to get Nurkic off their team. Nurkic left Denver averaging per game 17 minutes, 7 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assists and was a 58% free throw shooter.

Since then, now playing alongside
Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum, Nurkic has shown glimpses of greatness. Since joining the Blazers Nurkic is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, 30 minutes and most notably 4.5 assists. He has also had an incredible PER of 24. For reference Kristaps Porzingis has a PER of 17.2. Al Horford of the Celtics has a Per of 16.9 this season and Deandre Jordan has a PER of 20

Partnered with CJ and Dame, Nurkic might finally have found his role in a functional offense.
While he may not be quite as skilled with the ball, having great players around could allow for him to grow his game.  As it stands now, the Blazers pick up of Nurkic may have been the steal of the deadline.

It is unclear what his actual defensive ability is going from the worst defensive team in the league to another bad defensive team in the Blazers. Although on the season the Blazers have a Defensive rating of 112 but with Nurkic on the floor it has been a less bad 104. Their offensive rating with Nurkic on the floor is a solid 113.

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