Is Jusuf Nurkić in a slump?

After Portland survived a pandemic of Nurk Fever, Jusuf Nurkić reported to training camp 35 pounds lighter.

On top of being lighter, Jusuf Nurkić enters this season with a better understanding of the Blazers’ playbook. Last season, Coach Terry Stotts had simplified the offense so Nurk wouldn’t get overwhelmed.

With all preseason signs pointing to a Nurkić resurgence, his early season returns have been less than stellar.

Jusuf Nurkić

You can live with Nurk averaging slightly fewer points and rebounds than his crazy run last season. The trouble starts when you look… well, anywhere else.

  • His field goal percentage is way below average. At 36.4%, Nurk finds himself tied for the tenth-worst in the ENTIRE NBA among players on pace to shoot 300 field goals. No matter how you split it, that’s bad.
  • He’s averaging about half as many assists as last year. His passing looks great, but he’s a little over-eager to shoot (see above) and some of his passes have been ill-advised (see next).
  • He’s turning the ball over like crazy. Seriously, FOUR turnovers a game? That’s also good for tenth-worst in the NBA for qualified players.
  • He’s blocking fewer shots. About half as many as last year, when Nurkić transformed the Blazers’ defense from bottom feeder to “passable.”

So what’s the deal?

Casey Holdahl of reported the following from Nurk himself:

“There is no excuse man,” said Nurkić of his very early season performance. “I play a little bad, shots just didn’t fall in… right now we have a full playbook list and that’s different. Before I play ten plays, this just my adjustment. I’m getting there, I’m going to be better with this.”

Maybe the hype he built for himself caught up. Or maybe his preseason comments about being “too quick” were more prescient than he intended.

At a lighter playing weight, he may be having to adjust to absorbing heavy blows down low with less mass to compensate for them.

No matter what’s going on, Blazers fans should feel hopeful that Nurk will get better.

His field goal percentage will certainly come back up. He’ll continue adjusting to the offensive playbook. The rushing of shots and shoddy passes are relatively easy to clean up.

And even playing at his worst, he’s far and away the Blazers’ best option at center. There’s no danger of another player pushing him out of the lineup and affecting his confidence, like in Denver.

So never fear, Blazers fans: Nurkić will likely be back to his old self soon enough.

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