“Jusef Nurkic is the 2nd best player on the Portland Blazers.” This was a Tweet I posted on my Twitter five days ago. This was before Nurk’s historical 20/20 5X5 New Years Day game. Lets quickly go back to the free agency of the offseason of 2015.
When LaMarcus Aldridge left for San Antonio in 2015 and Neil Olshey didn’t make an attempt to keep the rest of the starting lineup outside of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum assumed the role of the second best player on the team. This was now Lillard’s team, who Olshey would try to build around.
With 80% of the starting lineup leaving, this opened the doors for CJ McCollum to have his Most Improved Player season; where he went from averaging 6.8 points per game to 20.8 ppg, 1.5 rebounds to 3.2, and 1 assist per game to 4.3; per ESPN.com.
Since the 2015-16 season, CJ’s assists has gone down every year, and points have been very inconsistent. He can take 20 shots to only put up 15 points, or seamlessly score 40 points.
In 2017, the Blazers traded Mason Plumlee to the Nuggets for Jusef Nurkic, and the Blazers had seen its’ first glimpses of someone who could be a dominant center for the team in a very long time, and certainly the first center of this caliber next to Damian Lillard. Nurk Fever was born.
Jusef has consistently been a 15 point/10 rebound guy since coming to the Blazers, but this season, Stotts has started to use him a little differently, running much more of the offense through him. Some games it seems to work really well until other players start playing hero-ball, and other games isolation plays seems to dominate the floor, leaving the ball out of Nurk’s hands.
This last week, ball movement seems to be at a new high, and Dame has really learned to let Nurkic distribute the ball from the post. In the last week, Jusef Nurkic is averaging all-star like numbers; averaging 21.5 points/12 rebounds/5.3 assists/1.8 steals/1.8 blocks per game.
The most recent of these games was on January 1st, in an overtime victory in Sacramento, where Nurk made NBA History. Jusef had 24 points, 23 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks (NBA.com); giving him the first ever 20 pts/20 reb/5 ast/5 stl/5 blk game in NBA history. Only 10 other players have even ever had a 5/5/5/5/5 game in NBA history, putting him in a pretty exclusive club of players.
I fully expect Jusef Nurkic to continue this dominant performance, albeit not a 5X5 game every night, if the Blazers continue to run the offense through him.
The Blazer’s next opportunity will Friday night at 7:30 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. I imagine Terry Stotts will see how Nurk does against the solid defense of Steven Adams and adjust accordingly.
The Blazers won their last matchup with OKC by 3 and both teams are 7-3 in their last 10 games (NBA.com). We should be primed for another fun game Friday night.
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