May 27, 2016, 3:34 pm
As the Denver Nuggets go through the process of assessing their team this offseason they have many directions to explore, given their talented young core and numerous draft assets. One key issue they’ll have to consider is what to do with their plethora of young and talented big men, specifically Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. Both players have started at center for the Nuggets, with Jokic breaking out as a in 2015-16, finishing third in the NBA’s rookie of the year voting.
The dilemma for the Nuggets is how to maximize the assets they have when two of their four most talented young players share a position. Late in the season head coach Mike Malone experimented by playing both together, asking Jokic to move to power forward. The results were mixed. Jokic’s passing and shooting – coupled with the duo’s presence on the glass – made for dynamic offensive results, but questions remain when it comes to Jokic’s ability to remain in front of opposing fours on defense.
In an interview with NBA.com Jusuf Nurkic spoke at length on the subject, saying: “I’m happy about the big lineup [with Nikola].” He went on to argue that the chemistry he’s developed with Jokic makes them a threatening tandem. “Basketball has kind of changed. The NBA has gone smaller because of [the] Golden State [Warriors]. In the [Western Conference] semi-finals, look at [Oklahoma City’s Steven] Adams, [Enes] Kanter, and [Serge] Ibaka. They played all those guys and they see the difference. Me and Nikola have great communication because we played in the same league, we played against each other.”
With a rising young coach and a core of intriguing young players the Nuggets might finally be headed in the right direction. There may not be a potential superstar on the current roster, though, so they must maximize their current assets if they hope to return to contention. How Nurkic fits into that equation will dramatically impact the team’s future course of action.
If the Nuggets decide that he and Jokic can play together long term, then the team may already have their front court of the future in place. If not, then exploring trading Nurkic might help them shore up other positions of need.
That said, after seeing his last campaign derailed by injuries the Nuggets would be wise to let Nurkic reestablish the value he maintained as a rookie before finalizing a deal. Regardless of which route they choose, the Nuggets could make a splash this summer using a combination of the picks and players in their war-chest