The Bulls selected Jusuf Nurkic with the No. 16 pick in the NBA draft on Thursday, which will reportedly be traded to the Denver Nuggets as part of a proposed package which also includes the No. 19 pick going to the Nuggets in exchange for the No. 11 overall pick, Doug McDermott. Here’s a look at Nurkic and how he fits with Denver:
Bio: Team: Cedevita (Croatia) | Country: Croatia | Age: 19 | Center
Vitals: 6-11, 280 pounds
2013-14 stats (Adriatic League): 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 54.5 FG%
Strengths: In a thin draft for centers, Nurkic has emerged behind Joel Embiid as perhaps the second best. The big-bodied 19-year-old began playing organized ball only in 2009 and this year helped Cedevita to the Adriatic League finals, excelling in limited playing time (16.6 minutes in league play). Nurkic is a raw player with a big adjustment ahead of him, but with chops that suggest he has an eventual place in an NBA lineup. Adept around the rim with good post footwork, he’s been compared with the Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic, with enough strength to bang inside and the catch-and-finish potential to be a pick-and-roll weapon. He rebounds well with long arms and a thick frame, and could develop into a useful rim protector.
Weaknesses: Nurkic isn’t particularly mobile, and with the changing demands on centers in today’s NBA there are questions about his conditioning and whether he can get up and down the court. He’s relied on his size and strength to score and will have to learn how to finesse his way past defenders in a league where he won’t always be the biggest guy on the floor. There have been multiple reports pointing to a less-than-stellar on-court demeanor (arguing with refs, short temper), but remember, he’s just 19. With his body type and the need to develop back-to-the-basket skills, Nurkic is a project.
Team Fit: With JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson at center, Nurkic gives Denver a potential long-term solution at the position. Though not without risk, the burly Bosnian in theory fills a need for the Nuggets and could become a force in the paint, with a body suited for the NBA game, if he can stay in shape. With Denver somewhat in limbo after a 36-46 season, the pick would seem to suggest a longer-term outlook – Nurkic could stay overseas and develop, which might be a prudent move. He’s coming off a strong season in Croatia and whenever he gets to the U.S., the Nuggets will hope he’s ready. After dealing with the Bulls, Denver will pick again at 19.