He’s not the most prolific player in the league. He’s not a glamorous. He won’t make many highlight reels, but rookie Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic is developing into quiet an NBA player.
The 16th overall pick in the 2014 pick was not expected to contribute much to the Nuggets this season who are known around the league for having a mediocre, yet extremely crowded frontcourt. The Nuggets opened the season with Darrell Arthur, Nurkic, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, Timofey Mozgov, and Javale McGee all fighting for the same minutes.
That’s part of the reason why Nurkic doesn’t play as much as many think he should. He averages only 16 minutes per game in the Nuggets log jammed frontcourt but on a per minute basis Nurkic is one of the best bigmen in the entire league.
Per 36 minutes Nurkic is averaging 14.9 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. Those are monster numbers except for when you consider that he fouls more than seven times per 36 minutes so he would theoretically foul out of every game.
Per 100 possessions with Nurkic on the court the Nugs’ are more than 10 points better than with the Bosnian bruiser off the floor.
"I like the fact that he’s kind of oblivious to everything that goes on," Shaw said in praise of his rookie center. "He’s our most physical player."
Added Shaw: "He’s fearless. He comes from a region of the world where I’m sure he’s used to, he’s prepared for whatever he has to face. He doesn’t complain about anything. He gets out there. He plays the way he knows how to play. He doesn’t back down from anyone and we need more guys like that on our team, to be honest."
Any frontcourt pair the Nuggets can think of is better with Nurkic than without Nurkic and any and every NBA fan has to love this clip from earlier in the season of Nurkic stopping Kobe from scoring twice on one possession and then taunting him.
Hopefully Nurkic makes the rising stars challenge and gets to showcase his abilities on a big stage this February, but if not expect the Bosnian center to continue improving and talking great Bosnian strides as the Nuggets continue building toward the future.