Scouts, pundits and fans alike have often referred to guards such as Dante Exum or Elfrid Payton as the wild cards of the 2014 NBA draft, but Jusuf Nurkic might just be the biggest—both literally and figuratively—of all of them.
The 6'11", 280-pound center from Bosnia and Herzegovina is an enigma—most have yet to see him in any capacity that isn't a YouTube video—but the Chicago Bulls were willing to roll the dice Thursday night, selecting him with 16th overall pick.
However, Nurkic will reportedly be moved to Denver in a deal that sent Doug McDermott to the Bulls (via Jeff Goodman of ESPN):
Doug McDermott has been traded to Chicago for 16 and 19, sources told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 27, 2014
In 28 games in the Adriatic League last season, Nurkic averaged 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks in just 16.6 minutes per contest for Cedevita. He shot 54.5 percent from the field and 70.1 percent from the charity stripe.
While those numbers don't come close to telling the whole story, they accurately paint a picture of Nurkic as a prospect: loads of potential (25.4 points and 12.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals per 36 minutes—goodness), but still quite raw (he played just the sixth-most minutes on his team).
It's not difficult to see why Nurkic, once thought to be a fringe first-round prospect, slipped into the top 20.
In addition to mammoth physical traits and immense power, he is agile, has good footwork and possesses a soft touch around the rim. While he'll spend much of his time scoring off the block and bruising on the interior a la a bull in a china shop, he will also serve as a threat in the pick-and-roll game.
According to DraftExpress.com, he had 1.6 possessions per game as the roll man (third most among 12 draft-eligible centers in the study), "shooting 65 percent when he rolls to the rim."
ESPN's Fran Fraschilla praised the big man's skill set:
3. Jusuf Nurkic 6-11 Age: 19 Country: Bosnia He is a "mountain man." Below rim but great feet for size. Only maturity holds him back.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) June 24, 2014
There have been questions about whether or not Nurkic will continue to develop overseas for a season or two, but news of a buyout with Cedevita, via DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony, quickly answered all of those:
Just spoke to Jusuf Nurkic's agents at CAA. As of today, he has a clear buyout to leave Cedevita for the NBA, to be paid over 24 months.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 25, 2014
There was some confusion in NBA circles about Nurkic's buyout and intentions to come over immediately or not. This should clear that up.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 25, 2014
While the expectation is for him to come over right away, it's important to remember that he's still raw. For the first year or two, his biggest impact may simply be as an energy player off the bench.
If he ultimately learns how to fully take advantage of his large frame and Hulk-like strength, though, you're looking a future starting center who can impact both sides of the ball—and bully some of these new-age, athletic centers in the process.