All year I bashed the Blazers and their defense. To their defense, they’ve been dealing with injuries all year that actually impacted their lackluster defense. Now, the Blazers looked like a totally different team with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor. His defense and offense really showed and help them to a win over the Grizzlies. Is Jusuf Nurkic their 2nd best player?
Jusuf Nurkic Stats
Even for Denver, Jusuf Nurkic had always great defense. His offense wasn’t bad but he really has developed his game over the years. For his last year with the Nuggets, he only averaged 10 PPG on 50.7% shooting, 7.2 RPG, and 1.1 BPG. Now with the Blazers, he averaged 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 1.4 BPG last year. In his first game back with the Blazers in 2020, which was the Orlando Bubble, he had 18 points, 9 RPG, 5 APG, and 6 BLOCKS! His impact was felt almost immediately when he was on the floor.
It must be noted that Hassan Whiteside played the entire year and it was nowhere close near what Nurkic does for this team. Hassan Whiteside isn’t a difference-maker for the Blazers, Jusuf is. In fact, because Jursuf is back, Whiteside only played 17 minutes for the Blazers against the Grizzlies. That could have even been fewer minutes if Nurkic didn’t get into foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
While Jusuf was a big reason the Blazers defense was way better, it should also be noted that my Blazers X-Factor, Zach Collins, helped on defense too. One thing is for sure, this team is way different with those two players. Hassan Whiteside doesn’t look nearly as good. IF this was the Blazers team that played all year, there’s no question they would be in the playoffs. If the Blazers make the playoffs, just know the difference was Jusuf Nurkic.