by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

PLAYER SUMMARY – Unlike their American counterparts, international players often come into the Draft with an interesting story of how they got there. For Bosnian big man, Jusuf Nurkic, it began at age 14 – the age when he started playing organized basketball. He was recruited to play the game after his future basketball agent read an article about his tall father, a policeman in Tuzla. The agent tracked him down and asked if he had a son.

That’s how Nurkic got his start in the game as a boy. But in less than two weeks, one of the most productive bigs in Europe on a per-minute basis will make the man-sized leap to the big stage.

That might be the biggest leap Nurkic will make in his pro career. He’s definitely a below-the-rim big whose main strength is just that – his strength. At just 19 years of age, he’s impossible to move under the basket. He’s got a big body and he knows how to use it. But Nurkic also possesses excellent footwork with good lateral movement, and he has very quick hands – making him very effective in pick-and-roll situations. He knows how to carve out space in the block, although he doesn’t yet have a wide array of offensive tools to show off once he does. What he does have is the ability to hit a hook shot with either hand. The Croation center is also a solid free throw shooter, a huge advantage seeing at how much he gets to the stripe.

Defensively, Nurkic is still a work in progress. He’s an aggressive shot-blocker, but not exactly a rim-protector at this point. Overall, his aggressiveness is actually somewhat of a concern. Nurkic plays with energy and intensity almost to a fault – he’s extremely foul-prone and has a tendency to agitate referees and fans, all of which has contributed to his limited minutes.

Nurkic has many of the physical attributes that NBA teams covet. His nastiness and aggressiveness work both for and against him, but most scouts feel he’ll mature with age and when matched up with NBA veterans and coaches. With less than a fortnight until the 2014 Draft, scouts feel that Nurkic has worked his way into the bottom of the first round and could be the second-best pure center among this year’s group of draftees.


  • Height: 6-11
  • Weight: 280
  • Position: C
  • Current Team: KK Cedevita

PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS – Nurkic spent two seasons with junior teams in Slovenia before making his senior debut in Croatia. He competed in the 2012 U18 Euros B Division and averaged 19.4 points and 13.2 boards en route to MVP honors. In just 16.6 minutes per game in the Adratic League in in 2013-14, he averaged 11.7 points and 5.7 boards per contest.

PLAYER COMPARISON – Some bigs come into the league needing to pack on weight and muscle, but Nurkic is not one of them. At 6-11 and almost 280 lbs. with a solid 7-2 winspan – he was built to bang in the post at the NBA level. His dimensions have reminded scouts of international bigs like Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic and Zaza Pachulia. His attitude – scouts say he plays with a “drunken passion” for the game – has evoked comparisons to Chicago’s Joakim Noah.

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