Nuggets Power Rankings: No. 5, Jusuf Nurkic


The Denver Nuggets’ preseason roster includes 19 players, and the team will try to figure out which 15 of them deserve a shot during the regular season throughout the team’s seven-game exhibition slate.

But, for now, how do these players stack up? We polled our staff writers and editor at Nugg Love to get a consensus power ranking of every player on the roster, and we’ll be releasing one player each day throughout October, starting from No. 19 and finishing at No. 1.

Who is Jusuf Nurkic?

The Bosnian Beast earned his namesake balling in the Bosnia and Herzegovina championship series. Nurkic mades waves prior to his NBA recognition from his participation with the Cedevita Zagreb, a team in Croatia that plays in numerous different European leagues. Nurkic was nominated for the FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year Award in 2014.

In the 2014 NBA Draft, Jusuf was selected with the 16th overall pick by the Chicago Bulls, who later exchanged Nurkic along with Gary Harris to the Nuggets for the rights to college firecracker Doug McDermott.

Nurkic was quiet in a 12-minute debut for the Nuggets, scoring just five points and adding seven boards. As his rookie season progressed, the Bosnian Beast showed promise as a young and developing big. He had just four double-doubles, but 16 double-digit scoring outings and seven double-digit rebounding nights.

His statistics weren’t the best, but that could be attributed to his 17.8 minutes per game and 3.3 fouls per contest. His minutes should spike this year, especially with his contract option picked up earlier in October. Increased minutes will force him to be more conscientious about foul trouble, but will also give him more time to prove himself on the floor.

The big man had knee surgery during the offseason, and Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said he will probably return sometime in November, per the Denver Post‘s Christopher Dempsey.


More from Nugg Love

Nurkic’s size is impressive. At 7 feet and 280 pounds, the man is an actual behemoth. He is strong for his age, which is also something to be struck by, as the Bosnian is just 21 years young. His strength and size give him the capability to move defenders on the post and for positioning when a board goes up.

His power and size (he also boasts a 7’3” wingspan) pair well with his impressive craftiness. He has a soft touch with both hands around the rim and has fundamental footwork. These skills make him a threat off of screens and in the post, where he has a diverse arsenal of moves. He has already established strong spin moves, drop steps and baby hooks all during his rookie season. His continued expansion of this repertoire will make him a difficult man to guard down low.

His size also gives him strong ability on the defensive end. He is a tenacious shot-blocker and has active hands in the post that result in stolen entry passes and forced turnovers from big men’s drunken dribbles.

One of his less tangible strengths is his IQ and knack for the game. He is known for smart positioning with rebounds and off ball movement. The marriage of his size, strength, IQ and tenacity make him a daunting rebounder when the ball is in the air.

For a big man, Nurkic is an above-average free throw shooter. Although he only shot 64 percent last season (on just two attempts a game), his ability to draw contact, finish the hoop, and knock down from the charity stripe make him a coach favorite. Expect him to improve his free-throw percentage this season, as well as his attempts per contest.


Nurkic fouls. A lot.

Entering the NBA, several scouts assumed he wouldn’t succeed because he wouldn’t have exposure to the necessary minutes, and during those minutes he would find himself in foul trouble. Throughout his rookie season, he averaged 3.3 personal fouls a game in just 18 minutes a game. That number tied for the fourth-most in the league behind DeMarcus Cousins, Larry Sanders, and Andre Drummond. Per 48 minutes, Nurkic had the most fouls a game in the NBA (9.0) for players that played more than 30 games (not surprisingly, he also led the league in flagrant fouls last season with 3).

Despite his uncanny strength and effort, he isn’t explosive or extremely athletic. This can be expected, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a weakness. Imagine if a 7-foot 280-pound white center had a 38-inch vertical and could run a 4.8-second 40-yard dash. He would be a freak. That prototype would average 75 points a game in 1960. You can’t be good at everything.

Unfortunately, but admittedly expected, he seems immature both on and off the court. He yells and complains at referees too often, and his shot selection could be considered somewhat forced. This isn’t a lack of IQ, but more so an overconfidence that isn’t smart for a player of his likeness to have.

Live Feed

Blazers projected lineup and rotations heading into 2023-24 season
Blazers projected lineup and rotations heading into 2023-24 season /


  • 10 Worst Portland Trail Blazers moves of the Joe Cronin eraRip City Project
  • This potential Damian Lillard trade is a win for the Washington WizardsWiz of Awes
  • Predicting Blazers leaders in 8 statistical categories for 2023-24 seasonRip City Project
  • Blazers path to building a contender after inevitable Damian Lillard tradeRip City Project
  • 3 players the Blazers should trade to fully embrace the post-Lillard eraRip City Project
  • 2015-16 Outlook

    Nurkic is good. He is young and has a ton of promise. is projecting the Bosnian Beast to notch 14 and 12 per 36 minutes with nearly 2 steals and 2 blocks during the 2015-16 NBA season. This may seem a bit optimistic, but I personally could see him exceeding these projections, especially if he can cut down on his foul troubles.

    There is no reason he shouldn’t be eating up 25-plus minutes a game. Mosgov was totaling around that range while with Denver, and Nurkic has the potential to surpass Timofey in ability. It is also important that the Nuggets give their young core minutes allowing them to improve with in-game experience.

    I project Nurkic hitting All-Star status in the 2018/19 season, affirming his spot as one of the better two-way centers in the league. That is a long ways away, and he has years ahead of him to learn the ins and outs of the game. Look for the Bosnian to make plenty of headlines this season and have numerous breakout performances (maybe even a 20/20 explosion!).

    Next: Nuggets Power Rankings: No. 6, Will Barton