How Jusuf Nurkić’s extended range opens a new dimension for the Trail Blazers’ offense

Portland Trail Blazers Jusuf Nurkic (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers Jusuf Nurkic (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Jusuf Nurkić has recently been working on extending his range to the 3-point line. In doing so, he could be taking the Portland Trail Blazers’ offense to the next level.

The next time the Portland Trail Blazers step onto an NBA floor, they’ll look a bit different from our most recent memory in March. From CJ McCollum’s new hairdo to Zach Collins’ moving from suit threads to jersey threads, the anticipation rivals that of seeing friends on that first day back at school after the long summer lay-off. The one many are most excited to see, though, is Jusuf Nurkić.

As Hulk Hogan might say, Nurkić has been “eating his vitamins and saying his prayers.” Earlier this week, fellow Rip City Project writer Stevie Cozens helped to break the news of the Bosnian big’s updated physique.

And then came Saturday’s video of Nurkić working through a conditioning shooting drill, sprinting along the perimeter. With limited eyesight, one might have assumed Kyle Korver bulked up and snuck into Portland’s facility.

It would be an overstatement to say Nurkić provided a glimpse of this in the past; he did hit three 3-pointers in 2018-19, but it took him 29 attempts. But, his range has annually improved. Every stoppage of play, he returns in the following season with some new dimension to his game. Take his accuracy from distance for example:

Percentage on shots from 16-feet and beyond (since joining POR)
2016-17 — 33.3 (on 8.4 percent frequency)
2017-18 — 37.6 (on 13.1 percent frequency)
2018-19 — 43.0 (on 9.6 percent frequency)

It’s trending upwards. And though we’ve witnessed how virulent it can be when centers become too over reliant on these types of shots at low efficiency— think DeMarcus Cousins— Nurkic has been selective about these types of looks.

If he returns, and draws even a semblance of fear with those types of shots, Portland’s already otherworldly offensive stars could find another dimension. Here’s a look at why it’s both likely to happen, as well as what it could mean for Terry Stotts’ Blazers on the glamorous side of the court.