SB Nation recently polled Portland Trail Blazers faithful and other NBA fans on their appraisal of Jusuf Nurkic’s performance this season, as well as the culpability that should be placed on head coach Chauncey Billups for recent slumps. The people have spoken and the results are here.
Nurkic received passing marks with overwhelming support from Blazers faithful. 53 percent applauded the Bosnian center for his play with a grade of B or better, and 92 percent gave him passing marks.
Nurkic’s efficiency numbers are all above his career averages on the season. His most marked improvement has come from 3-point range, where he is shooting 40.2 percent on nearly one made triple per game. His blocks per game (0.9 BPG) are down, yet he has helped Portland space their offense and maintain the interior on both ends.
His career-high 2.6 turnovers have contributed to sloppy team play, where he ranks No. 2 on the team in that category. His inability to consistently secure the ball off the catch has been concerning, but his deficiencies are outweighed by his strengths given these results.
As for coach Billups, only 31 percent of Blazers and NBA fans expressed staunch oppositional sentiments of his performance in the midst of recent losing streaks. Most followers voted having little to no grounds to castigate the second-year head coach for Rip City’s struggles.
Since polling concluded, Portland has won their last two games by 17 points each against the Dallas Mavericks. In their first of two victories, the Blazers shut down superstar guard Luka Doncic, holding him to a season-low 15 points on 7-19 shooting from the floor.
Coach Billups implemented a trap defense against the Slovenian stalwart, bringing a second defender — in most cases Josh Hart or Drew Eubanks — to force Doncic to cough the ball up.
Billups embraced a philosophy of letting the “others” beat them, and while Dallas shot north of 52 percent from the field and 47 percent from distance, they were a one-trick-pony that had no offense inside or in transition. He even returned to his patented zone which saw success in spurts.