He wasn’t the biggest name moved during Wednesday’s blockbuster trade in the NBA, but veteran big man Jusuf Nurkic was sent to the Phoenix Suns as part of the Damian Lillard deal in a move that could prove to be very important.
There’s a belief that Nurkic, 29, has what it takes to be an impact player for the Suns going forward as they look to challenge for the 2024 NBA title, according to a report.
“There’s a belief with Frank Vogel’s defensive scheme and a renewed motivation amid a fresh start with a championship contender, Nurkic can be a difference-maker for Phoenix,” wrote HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto.
“‘Before Nurkic got injured, he was a good defensive center and was Portland’s second-best player ahead of CJ McCollum for a short time,’ an NBA scout told HoopsHype. ‘I think it might be asking too much of him to return to his pre-injury form, but he can help them if he’s properly motivated and healthy with dribble handoffs and as a positional defender.'”
Nurkic’s long run with the Portland Trail Blazers is over after more than six seasons. The former first-round pick will be playing for his third NBA team this season after he started his career with the Denver Nuggets years ago.
Among Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, the Suns have no shortage of championship-level talent. If Nurkic can simply be productive in his role, some of Phoenix’s other players should be able to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Last season, Nurkic averaged 13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from deep. His improvement from beyond the arc in recent years should help the Suns from a spacing standpoint.
While the veteran has made the playoffs a few times before, his stint with the Suns may give him the best chance at a title that he’s had since entering the NBA.
With the Deandre Ayton era now over in Phoenix, Nurkic may help give the Suns a new identity in their frontcourt. Ayton had spent his entire career with the Suns before being involved in Wednesday’s trade news.
The Suns took a second-round exit last season at the hands of the Nuggets, who ultimately won the NBA Finals. Phoenix is hoping that its busy offseason will be enough for the organization to get over the hump and win a championship for the first time ever.
The squad will open its season in less than a month against the Golden State Warriors, which will give fans a chance to see how the Suns measure up against another contending team in the Western Conference.