On this date 27 years ago in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina ‘The Bosnian Beast’ aka Jusuf Nurkic made his arrival to earth.
Fast forward to 2021, and Nurkic has become one of the best big men in the NBA and a solid part of the Blazers' title aspirations.
In 4.5 seasons with the team, he’s averaged 14.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and a steal. A great showing for someone with beast in their nickname.
Being in Portland has given Nurkic a platform to showcase his ability, as he was dealt away by the Nuggets as they were looking to make room for reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
Since that 2017 trade, Nurkic has shown an ability to do a little bit of everything. Where the problem lies is his durability.
Over the past two seasons, he’s only played in 45 of a possible 146 regular-season games. Although he was able to get healthy enough to perform in the last two playoffs.
Last season he appeared in 37 games and averaged his lowest PPG (11.5) and FGA’s (9.0) since joining the Blazers. He expressed his frustrations with this role, saying “In the right situation, yes… we’ll see, I don’t know yet because this is not it,” when asked if he wanted to return to the team.
“At the beginning of the year I wish my role was bigger,” Nurkic said. “I think I could help even more but, like I said, I was respectful and tried to do what they asked of me.”
Despite his initial frustration after their six-game playoff loss to the Nuggets, he seemingly has changed his tune and wants to remain with the team.
“In the last game of the season, I said that change must happen," Nurkic said in comments translated by Katie Misic. "In four years, we only had one West final, which is relatively poor score for a team like Portland. There are people above you to decide who will stay and who to bring, because the NBA is the biggest business there is," he said.
“As far as I am concerned, I was told that no one would be traded and that only the coach would change,”
It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in Chauncey Billups’ offensive system as the team’s third or fourth options next to Norman Powell.
The 2021-’22 season will also serve as a contract year for the 27-year-old, as he’ll be in the last year of a four-year, $48 million deal. If no extension is agreed upon before the season, Nurkic will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
His health may worry some, but when he’s on the court his skill shows why he’s worth $48 million and maybe even more.