Jusuf Nurkic is an international player that entered this year’s NBA Draft. He played for the Cedevita Zagreb in Croatia. He plays the center position and will be turning 20 years old this month.
Jusuf Nurkic was originally drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but they signed their rights to him to the Denver Nuggets during a draft-day trade. The Denver Nuggets gave up their rights to Doug McDermott, who they drafted with the 11th pick in the draft, and Anthony Randolph to Chicago for their 16th pick, Nurkic, and 19th pick, Gary Harris.
When Nurkic was drafted, it was reported that he would return overseas to play another year or two before officially joining the NBA. The thought was for him to develop more as a player before making his debut. However, that all changed when the Nuggets bought out Nurkic’s contract with the Croation club. A couple of days ago, the Nuggets officially signed Nurkic to the team with a four-year deal worth $7 million with the third and fourth years under a team option. This was good news for a team that originally thought they would need to wait a couple of years to see their first-round draft pick play in the NBA.
Now, before we get to my prediction for Nurkic next season in the NBA, let’s first take a closer look at his skills, talent and specs. Then, we will take a look at how he played in the U20 European Championship with Bosnia and Herzegovia from July 10-July 20. Lastly, we will analyze how I see him doing next season and how worthy he is of earning a spot on your fantasy team.
Jusuf Nurkic Strengths
Nurkic is a young and tall prospect that has a bright future ahead of him. He stands at 6-feet-11 and weighs in at 280 pounds. His wingspan, 7-foot-2, is something that will come as an advantage in the NBA. His amazing balance, great mobility, solid and robust frame and long wingspan make him highly suitable to be banging in the post as a center in this league.
In addition, he possesses fantastic footwork making him highly effective with the pick and roll. His soft hands and soft touch make his hook shot very effective with either hand, combining that with a spin move makes it hard to stop. One of the best things about Nurkic, something that most centers lack in this league, is his ability to hit free throws. Combine that with his ability to get to the free throw line by drawing contact and you receive a lot of free points from Jusuf.
Another thing that you need as a center is the ability to rebound. That’s one of their biggest jobs. Luckily for the Nuggets, Nurkic is an excellent rebounder. He plays with a high level of energy and intensity when grabbing rebounds and isn’t scared of contact under the basket. He has a great feel for the game and his great basketball instincts make it easy for Nurkic to improve his game.
Lastly is the defensive end. This is where Nurkic shows great potential in this league. He has great lateral speed and quick hands, making it easy to block shots and grab steals. He holds down the paint on the defensive end and makes it difficult for opponents to get near the rim.
Quick recap of his strengths:
Strong frame with ability to bang down low.
Great offensive moves around the rim.
Great rebounder, both offensively and defensively.
Doesn’t shy from contact.
Good shooting touch.
Jusuf Nurkic Weaknesses
One weakness that Nurkic holds is that he doesn’t have a very good vertical and isn’t very explosive. This will bring difficulties when matched up against bigger and longer opponents, both offensively and defensively. In addition, he is quite foul-prone. Although he holds a lot of potential defensively, he does come out with quite a few fouls every game and that can pay the price in this league.
For the most part, he does lack discipline, fundamentals, positioning and attitude. Combined with his temper and behavior on and off the court, he could see some problems next season. If he doesn’t learn to back off of the referees and keep his temper to a minimum, he could see several technical fouls and suspensions next season. This won’t bode well for Nurkic, the Denver Nuggets or your fantasy team.
Quick recap of his weaknesses:
Not very athletic or explosive.
Could be in foul-trouble often.
Ability to defend more athletic centers is questionable.
Maturity and attitude are a concern.
Jusuf Nurkic played in the U20 European Championship with Bosnia and Herzegovia. It lasted ten days, from July 10th to July 20th. The way Nurkic played had to put a smile on the faces of Nuggets’ management and their fans. His play was excellent and should ease everyone’s mind about his potential.
His team ended up winning the title in the U20 European Championship Division B tournament. Nurkic was also named the MVP after averaging a monster 21.4 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game, 2.6 blocks per game and 1.8 steals per game.
Nurkic was very unstoppable by the end of the eight games. He shot 63 percent from the field in the last three games and also made 16 of 18 free throws in the title game. The team’s strategy in the title game was to foul him and make him score from the charity stripe instead of from the field. Nurkic showed great adaptation to that when he made all but 2 free throws that game.
Although Nurkic missed the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas due to this tournament, Denver has to be very proud and excited on his performance. His hope for a bright future is getting larger and larger.
I believe Nurkic will get a decent amount of playing time next season. With that being said, I believe he will be worth picking up as a flex player or a bench player in case of an injury to your roster. As far as his averages go, it depends on how much time the Nuggets give him on the court. If he gets at least 15 minutes per game, he should be able to produce around 10 points per game, 6 rebounds per game and provide good defensive stats. Eventually, if he ever gets to the 30-35 minutes per game, he would be a potential 20 point, 10 rebound player.