2014 NBA Mock Draft: Is Jusuf Nurkic the Next Nikoloz Tskitishvili?

On Tuesday, May 20, the Denver Nuggets walked away from the lottery with the number 11 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. With the ping-pong balls packed away for another year and the top of the draft order set, draft experts are rushing to share their latest 2014 mock drafts.

The team over at DraftExpress recently released their updated NBA mock draft, and they have the Denver Nuggets using the number 11 pick to select Jusuf Nurkic, a 6’ 11”, 280-pound Center from Bosnia.

The 19-year old Nurkic spent the last two seasons playing overseas in the Adriatic and Eurocup leagues. In 12 games last season, he averaged 10.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in only 14 minutes per game. According to Draft Express, he is an outstanding rebounder with natural scoring instincts who, despite his age, already possesses the size and strength to bang with the bigs in the NBA. The site lists defensive discipline among his weaknesses, but indicates he has the tools to improve as a defender with proper coaching.



Like most Nuggets fans, I know very little about Nurkic or his game, so it’s difficult to speculate on whether or not he’d be a good fit for a Nuggets squad that is only a year removed from one of the best seasons in franchise history. That said, the possibility of the Nuggets drafting the young Bosnian concerns me for two reasons.

First, I’m firmly in the camp that believes the Nuggets primary need is improving at the shooting guard position. With only two pure shooting guards on the current roster – Randy Foye and Evan Fournier – the team needs to find a 2-guard who can compete for minutes in the rotation right away. I’ve gone on record saying that Michigan’s Nik Stauskas or Kentucky’s James Young are two players the Nuggets should look at long and hard given their current draft position. Both Stauskas and Young are proven scorers at the college level, and I believe their ability to stretch the floor as 3-point threats would add a dimension that the Nuggets’ offense sorely lacks. In Young’s case, he also is a talented slasher who can get to the basket and make things happen around the rim. Admittedly, neither player is a huge upgrade over Foye or Fournier in terms of defense (Young especially struggled to stay with quicker guards during his time at Kentucky), but they both strike me as players who, with the right coaching and development, could realistically work themselves into the Nuggets rotation next season.

Second – and I know this is silly – but the mere mention of drafting another raw, relatively unknown player from overseas brings to mind one of the most infamous names in Nuggets history: Nikoloz Tskitishvili. Like Nurkic, Tskitishvili was a 19-year old big man labeled as a project with star potential. And like Nurkic, most NBA fans had never heard of Tskitishvili until the weeks leading up to the draft. In 2002, teams began singing Tskitishvili’s praises as the draft approached and then-Nuggets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe fell in love with the kid, eventually drafting him with the number 5 pick, ahead of guys like Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Taushaun Prince, and Caron Butler. In three seasons with the Nuggets, Tskitishvili averaged 3.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and shot 30 percent from the field while appearing in 143 total games. Those stats would be acceptable if we were talking about a guy who the team randomly grabbed off the sidewalk in front of the Pepsi Center and asked him to suit up for a couple of seasons, but this is a top 5 pick we’re talking about. Tskitishvili was such a bust, in fact, that the Denver Post went so far as to name him the “worst draft pick in Nuggets history, by a mile.”

Given my limited knowledge of Nurkic, I hate to immediately lump him in with Tskitishvili, but there are just too many similarities to ignore. When the draft takes place on June 26, I hope the Nuggets make a pick that gets the fans excited for next season. But even more than that, I hope the Nuggets remember the Tskitishvili debacle and stay as far away as possible from any player labeled an “overseas project.”

What do you think, Nuggets fans? Do you think Nurkic is the second coming of Nikoloz Tskitishvili? Or do you see something in his game that indicates he’ll have more success in the league?

Tags: Denver Nuggets Jusuf Nurkic NBA Draft Nikoloz Tskitishvili

  • Len Nunes

    i agree with you that the Nugs need a shooting guard much more than they need another project center

  • MH11

    If we stand pat we should get Gary Harris as he would be our long term answer at SG. Fournier would be the backup and Foye should be traded

    I would like to see the Nuggets get another 1st rd pick in the 20 range

    Most expendable player we have is Chandler. Signed for 2 more years at 6.7 1st year and a team option for 7.1 million in the 2nd. Could package him with our 2nd rd picks and be able to move up.

    Picks in the 20 range that could intrigue us

    James Young SG/SF only 18 would have a small roll his rookie year to accumulated to the nba.

    Elfrid Payton PG would give us a big PG at 6’4 average 19 / 6 / 6

    Adreian Payne PF big guy that could man the PF slot. only downside is he is
    already 23.5 years old.

    Clint Capela PF 20 years old 6’11 222 put on 15 lbs of muscle since the last year.
    From Switzerland but playing in the French League.
    If drafted would most def stay 2 years in Europe to refine skills.

    2014/15 season

    PG: Lawson, Robinson, PAYTON
    SG: HARRIS, Fournier, foye
    SF: Gallinari, Q Miller
    PF: Faried, Arthur, Randolph
    C : McGee, Mozgov

    Harris with his defense and offense should easily beat out Foye who in my mind should have been a back up to Fournier in the lost season.. WE could have gotten a great look at the young kid to see what he had to offer instead of the sporadic minutes he received all year long.. When he got consistent minutes he looked great.. When he got 5-10 mins from game to game he looked a lil lost.

    With Robinson a FA after the 2014/15 season it would be good for us to get a bigger PG on the roster to take on the backup role after he departs. And would be good for him to learn on the sidelines the first year anyway. But this draft could help us solidify our back court for the foreseeable future.

    We were not a bad team in 2014. Breaking in a 1st time head coach, learning a new system but all the injuries were to great to overcome. Here’s hoping we have a relatively injury free 2014/15 season up ahead.