Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic ranks among the most intriguing NBA players to watch in the coming season, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. In an article published this morning, Lowe goes into deep detail on Nurkic’s resurrection in Portland last season after a mediocre showing with the Denver Nuggets, then tips what the Blazers are looking for this year, not just from their center, but from potential acquisitions.
Nurkic's revival is a useful reminder that only a half-dozen or so superstars translate independently across any roster. Everyone else is a plant seeking the right habitat.
In Denver, Nurkic set screens for point guards who inspired no fear. In Portland, he dances with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, lethal pull-up shooters who draw traps 30 feet from the rim. Nurkic suddenly had space to rampage, and holy hell, did he rampage.
The evolution caught some by surprise, including his new teammates:
"We didn't know the extent of his game," said McCollum, who watched a lot of film with Nurkic early to accelerate their two-man chemistry. "He's huge, but he can make plays without being a klutz."
Nurkic became a fundamentally different player. He migrated outside, and exchanged brute force post-ups for pick-and-roll devastation. (It also helped that he, like, tried.) Most promising of all, he showed the passing chops to run Portland's offense from the elbows, easing the creative burden on Lillard and McCollum.
Near the end of the section on Nurkic, Lowe includes this quote from Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts:
"The give and take is that you have more good defenders on the court," Stotts, Portland's coach, told ESPN.com. "But we do need to find another shooter." (The Blazers are confident Harkless and Aminu can stabilize as at least average 3-point shooters; Aminu shot 36 percent from deep two seasons ago, and better than that after returning from injury last season. We'll see. It will be awhile before anyone guards them.)
It’s Zach Lowe, so you know there are about 2,000 more words, plus video. Also making Lowe’s “intriguing” list: Rodney Hood of the Utah Jazz, Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelican, and the Dallas Mavericks frontcourt.