Acquired from the Nuggets in the days leading up to the trade deadline, Jusuf Nurkic is a valuable component already breathing new life into the Trail Blazers, writes Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. In five games with his new club, Nurkic has averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in 29.8 minutes per game.
“I think his energy is definitely good for our team,” Damian Lillard told Freeman of the big man, later adding that the fiery 22-year-old adds a valuable emotional boost. “I guess you would call him a tough guy — every play he’s saying something.”
This isn’t the first time Nurkic has shown impressive potential, he flashed signs of promise during his rookie campaign in 2014/15. Still, a 2015/16 injury coupled with the emergence of Nikola Jokic this year and last inhibited the Bosnian’s development in Denver.
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- So long as the Trail Blazers are within reach of the playoffs, Damian Lillard will be competing at the highest level, writes Jason Quick of CSN Northwest. “We have an opportunity to make the playoffs and I’m going to play until that opportunity is gone, and then I’m still going to play. We have a whole summer until the next season, so I’m going to play.” The veteran understood the appeal of tanking during his rookie campaign when the postseason was never an option but has no desire to rely on the draft for immediate help.
- The recent signing of Norris Cole gives the Thunder a reliable veteran to back up Russell Westbrook at the point, writes Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman. “[We] just need him to run our team when he’s in there, make good decisions, defend,” says head coach Billy Donovan, “All the things he’s done for most of his career.“
- The Timberwolves have experimented with both Tyus Jones and Kris Dunn in the lineup at the same time, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune. The pair of point guards has been deployed of late when starter Ricky Rubio takes a seat. “I like Tyus and Kris together; that’s a big plus,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They have good chemistry together. It gives you a second pick-and-roll player.”
- Rookies have stepped up and made an impact for the Nuggets this season, writes Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. He speaks, of course, about the emergence of Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez as valuable contributors even as Denver competes for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.