Jusuf Nurkic: Scouting Profile for Denver Nuggets' Draft Day Acquisition

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Jusuf Nurkic: Scouting Profile for Denver Nuggets' Draft Day Acquisition
Photo via @ATLHawks twitter

Drafted by: Chicago Bulls, 16th pick overall

Traded to: Denver Nuggets for Doug McDermott

Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Height/Weight: 6'11", 280 lbs
Age: 19 years old
Projected NBA Position: Center
Pro Comparison: Timofey Mozgov/Nikola Pekovic
Twitter Handle: @nurkic23

After carving up the paint in the Adriatic League in 2013-14, Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic has established himself as one of the best centers in the 2014 NBA draft.

With his powerful frame, superb mobility and great hands, the youngster shows a ton of promise as a low-post scorer. He could be a productive interior anchor on both ends of the floor, as he possesses a rare combination of size and agility.  

His per-minute production in the Adriatic and Eurocup leagues has been remarkable, and with some seasoning, he'll be a tough matchup for any NBA center.

International players are often a risk, but are we looking at the next great European big man?

2013-14 Statistics
MIN PTS REB BLK FG% FT%
Adriatic 16.6 11.7 5.7 0.8 .545 .701
Eurocup 15.4 8.9 3.3 1.3 .585 .706

DraftExpress.com

 

PHYSICAL TOOLS

Listed at 6'11" and 280 pounds, Nurkic has the height and bulk to battle with talented NBA frontcourts. In fact, his physique should allow him to get deep post position against most foes.

Photo via @nurkic23 Twitter

With a 7'2" wingspan and a standing reach of 9'1.5", per DraftExpress, he'll be able to get off hook shots and jumpers on offense and effectively contest shots on the other end.

Nurkic's leaping ability is far from eye-popping, so he won't be elevating for many acrobatic finishes. However, his feet move really well for a heavier player, and he's agile enough to thrive in pick-and-rolls and take advantage of pivot-move chances.

 

CORE STRENGTHS

Low-Post Scoring

Nurkic racked up a truckload of points in the paint for Cedevita in 2013-14, and he'll bring that interior scoring touch to the NBA.

On post-ups, he can pound for position with multiple dribbles, and then score with an up-and-under or drop-step spin. He loves the right-handed baby hook shot, but he's also able to toss it in with the left. Nurkic's size and shoulders enable him to shield and clear space for his shots.

On pick-and-rolls, he has promising footwork and great hands to receive passes, and then he uses a power step to gather and go up strong.

Once he gets a feel for NBA offensive sets, he'll be a potent weapon on the block.

 

Shooting Touch/ Pick-and-Pop Potential

A huge part of Nurkic's upside lies in his shooting potential. We've seen glimpses of his fluid, natural shooting motion and efficient free-throw shooting, and it indicates he'll be able to regularly knock down outside shots in the NBA.

Consequently, he'll keep defenses honest in spread situations, and his squad will effectively utilize him in pick-and-pop situations. Increased repetition and confidence would make him an inside-out threat.

 

Defensive Tools

Nurkic still has a lot to learn on the defensive side, but his mobility, length and shot-blocking talent are evident.

As previously mentioned, he owns superb lateral agility for someone his size, so he should be able to check most NBA centers without much difficulty. As his footwork and stance get better, his opponents won't get good position or have many field-goal chances.

And when they do, his length will bother them. His timing and coordination will alter and block shots. We're not talking about elite rim protection here, but he'll hold down the fort.

 

WEAKNESSES/CONCERNS

His lack of vertical lift will hurt his chances to finish over athletes in the open floor or score over the top shot-blockers in the league. However, given his size and length, this isn't a major red flag.

Most of Nurkic's weaknesses right now are between the ears, as he must become a better decision-maker and adopt a more heady approach to the game.

Much of that basketball IQ will come with time, but there are some concerns about his immaturity and demeanor when things aren't bouncing his way.

As far as specific in-game adjustments go, his defense needs substantial development. DraftExpress video analyst Mike Schmitz explained that Nurkic is "always in foul trouble, reaches constantly," and he "takes bad angles and gets burned in the pick-and-roll."

Fortunately, he's only 19.

Photo via @nurkic23 Twitter

 

NBA PROJECTION

Immediate Projection

Despite Nurkic's physical gifts and budding skill set, we must remember the NBA requires mental preparedness and a mastery of fundamentals. That is, if you want a major role.

He's not ready to carry the load as a frontcourt leader, but he could certainly bring rebounding and some forceful finishes in a modest role.

Hardwood Paroxysm international draft guru Brian Schroeder told Hawks.com that "his game would seem to translate best as an energy player for a couple years until he figures out the best ways to score on NBA-caliber big men."

 

Long-Term Projection

There's a productive future and a starting role in the NBA waiting for Nurkic, provided he works hard and polishes his game on both ends.

"His ceiling probably lies somewhere around (Nikola) Pekovic's, a solid, dependable starter," said Schroeder. Nurkic could make the most of his bulky frame and consistently win position for rebounds and deep post-ups.

Will he become a star? Probably not an All-Star but perhaps a top-tier big man who stands out and puts up great numbers as a third scoring option.

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