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Fantasy hoops: Will Jusuf Nurkic become a big deal?

Inconsistency has made Portland's Jusuf Nurkic a tough player to read. Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.

Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's André Snellings, Jim McCormick, Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe.


Jusuf Nurkic racked up 27 points (12-18 FG, 3-5 FT), 16 boards, 3 dimes and 3 swats against the Miami Heat on Monday. We've seen big nights like this from him before, but consistency has been an issue. What do you think the long-term ceiling is for this 23-year-old big?

André Snellings: The ceiling for Nurkic, as in the highest possible outcome, would be to average the kind of numbers that he put up on Monday. Nurkic has that kind of talent, as a huge man with great skills in the paint and a comfortability to face-up some, even from mid-range. However, there have been questions about his attitude in both of his stops so far -- in Denver, and occasionally with Portland -- that raises some uncertainty as to how close to his ceiling he can get.

Nurkic was dominant down the stretch for the Trail Blazers last season before injury struck, and he's in the midst of a similar run this year. If he can mature and start maintaining his focus over a full 82 games instead of just the stretch run, I think he could conservatively be a 16-and-9 player next year. By the time he reaches his athletic peak in his mid-to-late 20s, Nurkic could realistically be a 22-and-10 guy

Jim McCormick: With a relatively high usage rate of 27 percent this season, we are going to see some big lines from Nurkic littered throughout the campaign. I'm not dismissing last night's effort, but this is a guy who takes 16.6 shots per 36 minutes, thus the scoring ceiling is impressive.

My issue with Nurkic is that he's not a capable stretch big, nor is he very good in the post. He's hitting just 38.5 percent of his shots from between 3-10 feet from the basket this year and is a meager 58.4 percent from 0-3 feet from the rim for his career. All of which is to say, Nurkic is a heavy usage big man who isn't an efficient scorer.

Going forward, I'd rather have shares of Jonas Valanciunas, a player with a stronger post game (70 percent from 0-3 feet this year) and superior rebounding metrics. In a league trending small and, as a result, demanding more from centers, Nurkic isn't an ideal fit.

Joe Kaiser: The problem with Nurkic is that he doesn't play the minutes of other top-50 centers. For the season, he is at 26.1 MPG and that number has dipped even more during the past 10 games (24.7 MPG). As long as that continues to be the case for the mammoth big man in Portland, it's very difficult to consider him a top-50 fantasy player. He's going to have too many nights where he plays 19 minutes and finishes with only 8-9 points and 6-7 rebounds. That's just not going to cut it.

Kyle Soppe: I believe Nurkic is a fine player, but I expect his long-term ceiling to be as much a product of the roster around him as anything else. When I look at Nurkic, I essentially see another 23-year-old big man, Clint Capela. No, they don't look the same, but we are talking about guys playing on a perimeter-oriented offense that, on occasion, will feature their very capable big.

The big nights will be there when the matchup is just right, but the usage ceiling is only so high. Given the success Portland is experiencing this season, I see no reason why they'd put more offensive responsibilities on Nurkic. Assuming this team continues to build around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Nurkic's ceiling is along the lines of what Capela is doing this season (14.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks). That's very nice production, but I don't think he will be able to transition to an elite fantasy asset.