When the Nuggets selected Jusuf Nurkic 16th overall in the 2014 NBA draft, there were quite a few questions as to what their strategy with the massive big man would be. It was assumed he would be drafted and stashed for at least one season, where he could develop at his own pace. However, if his performance in the U-20 European Championships, B-Division (this is an important clarification) is any indication, they might have use for him this season. Hell, if he can keep up this production in the NBA, they should rename the Pepsi Center the Nurkic Pavilion.
Over the course of Bosnia’s five games so far, Nurkic is averaging 18.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest. His last three games have been even more impressive, as he’s averaged 23 points and 15 rebounds per game. Today was his pièce de résistance against Portugal, as he scored 30 points, added 17 rebounds, knocked down 13 of his 14 shots from the free-throw line, swiped four steals, and even added a three-pointer for good measure. Nurkic drew 12 fouls against the Portuguese contingent, and is now averaging eight fouls drawn per game in the tournament despite only playing 26 minutes per contest. For reference, Cameron Bairstow led all draftable NCAA prospects this year by averaging 7.5 fouls drawn per-40 minutes this year.
Nurkic is a 6’11, 285 pound brick house that cannot be moved in the paint, but he’s also shown an incredible amount of touch. If he can finish free throws at the 70% clip that he has in this tournament, we’re talking about a potential top-five offensive center in the NBA. I’m still trying to figure out what his ceiling is, but I still haven’t been able to quantify it quite yet. Any superlative statement that you could heap Bill Brasky could also be heaped on Nurkic, and I would totally get 100% behind it.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating given the fact that he’s playing against the B-side of competition in the championships. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the problems that Nurkic has, such as his ability to control the ball (he has 16 turnovers in his past two games) and his proclivity for committing fouls himself. He needs to get himself into better shape, and needs to learn some defensive tricks of the trade. There are definitely some problems here, and ironing them out will be essential to his success.
However, he looks to have the desire to really improve. He’ll be with the Nuggets next season, as the team has satisfied the buyout obligations put forth by KK Zadar. The Nuggets will be able to get him onto a solid conditioning program in order to allow him to play more minutes and hopefully commit fewer cheap fouls. The team doesn’t have a one-to-one affiliation with a D-League squad however, which means I would assume he’ll spend a majority of the time on the Nuggets bench this season.
Unless he is actually god. Which is still entirely possible.