As NBA basketball continues to evolve, the idea of set positions, and roles therein, is rapidly changing. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer analyzed three players who redefine the “center” position in the NBA: Thon Maker of the Milwaukee Bucks, Willie Cauley-Stein of the Sacramento Kings, and Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Tjarks had nothing but positive things to say about Nurkic’s new place in the Rose City.
In 584 minutes with Nurkic playing, the Blazers had a net rating of plus-9.6 and the highest offensive rating (113.7) and lowest defensive rating (103.7) of any of their rotation players. The player with the next highest net rating was Maurice Harkless at plus-3.4.
As well as glowing praise of his shot blocking ability.
Even though he struggled defending the pick-and-roll, he still improved Portland’s defense by locking down the paint and clearing the defensive glass, which were two issues for the Blazers’ undersized big men. He was more locked in defensively after the trade, and his block rate jumped from 3.5 percent with the Nuggets to 5.4 percent with the Blazers.
Overall, Tjarks put Nurkic down as a member of the new class of center that can pass near the perimeter, but also defend traditionally, clogging up the lane and controlling the glass.
In twenty games for the Trail Blazers last season, Nurkic averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds.