The folks at Sporting News like what they see from Jusuf Nurkic — so much so, they’ve ranked him No. 20 on their list of the top 25 NBA players under the age of 25.
They’re ready for a changed Nurkic to take stardom in stride:
"The Bosnian Beast" took advantage of a fresh opportunity in Portland, posting 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds over 20 games with the Trail Blazers. He has been somewhat injury prone throughout his career, and there are attitude concerns, but Nurkic looks like a changed man. He's in shape coming off an injury and a legitimate candidate to win Most Improved Player this season.
Nurkic’s offseason workouts drew much buzz this summer, and it was hard to miss with him flooding social media with pics of his improved body.
Improved conditioning, a full offseason to gel with the two main stars of the team in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and a promising 20-game sample size have some pegging Nurkic for Most Improved Player candidacy.
So far, Nurkic Fever has been more room temperature than anything. He’s averaging 13 points, eight rebounds and 2.3 assists per game through three games (small sample size, of course).
Nurkic’s most promising game came in a heartbreaking road loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. The Bosnian shook off a slow first-half start to post 17 points and 11 rebounds, five being offensive.
This season could be the next step for Nurkic, but it could also reveal flaws in his game as everyone watching the Blazers will have a chance to analyze (and overanalyze) everything he does over 82 games, not just 20.
It’s important for Nurk to prove his stardom so he can cash in this offseason, but it’s also important for the Blazers, as they look to lockdown a third star to pair with Lillard and McCollum.
He’ll get the Rip City faithful behind him Tuesday against the Pelicans, and home cooking has been kind to Nurkic before.