Jusuf Nurkic has turned up his play in the last two months as the Portland Trail Blazers try to hold off other Western Conference teams for the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The big man will also most likely be a restricted free agent this summer, with potential suitors circling around him. Given this, Nurkic is under more pressure than others entering the playoffs.
Consider this look at overpraised names with that in mind. We’re evaluating players in the context of their positions and what could happen if outside suitors make it their mission to steal them from incumbents.
Some of these players are straight-up overrated. Others, though, are merely in line to be overpaid or overhyped—or both—because the league at large has little else to overvalue.
Given this criteria, Favale pegs Nurkic as his most overhyped free-agent center:
Sticking Nurkic on another team still stands to torpedo his defensive stock. Portland needs him to maximize its conservative scheme, but he needs said approach to accentuate what he does best. He’s not going to stymie back-to-the-basket scorers, derail quick-footed rim-runners or survive when rotating into space.
Tab him for defensive success anywhere, and you’re left with the matter of his offense. He isn’t Clint Capela. He needs to get touches in the post, where he’s shooting under 40 percent and posting the sixth-highest turnover rate among every player to eat up three low-block possessions per game.
Favale sees offers coming for the big man, despite uncertainty where he fits on other teams, but stresses caution given his sample of play in Portland:
Non-unicorns won’t have the leverage to demand massive contracts in free agency. That should keep Nurkic’s price point in check. But he’s 23 and plugging the middle for a top-10 defense. Long-term offers will be available.
And yet, the lack of progress he’s shown in Portland—on offense specifically—should garner more concern. Any significant investment in him, from the Blazers or another team, could be one the financier ends up regretting.
Nurkic is currently averaging 14.3 points (on 50.3 percent from the field), 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. This is the last year of his rookie contract, setting up possibly the first big payday of his career this summer.