Portland Trail Blazers: Chauncey Billups expects greatness of Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is entering one of the most important seasons of his career, as he will enter free agency in 2022 — and new Head Coach Chauncey Billups expects him to fully capitalize.

Talking to Jason Quick of the Athletic, Billups explained how he relayed the importance of this upcoming year for both him and Nurk:

"I said, ‘Nurk, I know you are going to be a free agent, and I understand you have to have a great year. You need me for you to have a great year, and I need you for us to have a good year. We need each other, right?"

Billups also elaborated on how he plans to give the Bosnian Beast every opportunity to earn each cent he’ll make on his next deal, as he plans to instill an offense that provides the talented center plenty of touches to either score or make a play.

Jusuf Nurkic, Brandon Clarke, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies
Jusuf Nurkic, Brandon Clarke, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

Will Jusuf Nurkic have a breakout year for the Portland Trail Blazers under rookie Head Coach Chauncey Billups?

So far in his career, Nurkic has been underutilized. His best skill might be his passing, but under former coach Terry Stotts, he had scarce chances to showcase his court vision.

Despite having the offense funneled primarily through lead guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Nurk was able to find 3.4 assists per game last season purely within the flow of the game.

With Chauncey Billups’s intended motion offense, there should be ample more opportunity for Nurk to create for others out of the high and low-post.

The Portland Trail Blazers have limited avenues to improve their roster any further than what General Manager Neil Olshey has done already this offseason.  The only path remaining would be to trade away one or more of the Blazers core pieces in hopes for an upgrade,  but that would be a risky bet.

The team seems to be counting on major internal development to improve the squad, along with fundamental changes installed by their new head coach.

Aside from Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons, Portland will be mostly counting on Nurkic to elevate their ceiling.

Still only 27 years old, the Bosnian Beast has shown steady development every year, but his trajectory has been hampered by injuries.

Nurk’s impact on the court is unmistakable and cannot be understated. With him in the game, the Blazers performed like a top-six team on both offense and defense last season.

The major issue thus far is that Nurkic hasn’t been available to be on the court as often as the Blazers would like. Not only has he been injury prone the last few seasons, his stamina is also lacking — a detail that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his new coach.

"“…he has to be focused and be in shape. Because you are only going to play as many minutes as you are physically able. If you are out there tired, uh-uh, come on, gotta get you out. There are good players behind you.” – Chauncey Billups"

Simply by being more available and having more opportunities provided for him via a new offensive system, Nurk can take major strides next year.


If he can somehow stretch his range out to the 3-point line as well? It’s a wrap.

Billups fully believes so and as a result, so does his new center:

"I know how much I can bring, and I know how much I have wished I could have a chance. But now, I see in (Billups) that I can be more productive with more of a chance, more of a system around me."

Look for Jusuf Nurkic to generate some Most Improved Player noise in 2021-2022. If he does, the Blazers will be a much more dangerous threat for the title.

Next. 3 forwards for Nassir Little to emulate. dark