Have you ever noticed that the Blazers didn’t have Jusuf Nurkic during the regular season last year, and they struggled?
The Blazers have not had Jusuf Nurkic for very many games in the last two seasons, and some Blazers fans have been to quick to write him off. I’ll admit, I was one of them when I called him lazy… which is why I quickly apologized and made up for my actions.
Jusuf Nurkic is part of the big three that the Blazers started a few years ago with Lillard and McCollum. At times early this season, it seemed like Nurk Fever would never return. However, the problem is that people don’t realize how long it takes to come back from a gruesome leg injury like the one that Nurkic had. Take a look back at Paul George between 2014- 2016. He was not the same player as before, even more so now George still stays out on the three-point line more than before. Nurkic has been able to do everything for the Blazers when he is healthy. He can score, rebound, pass, steal the ball, and block shots
This season, the Blazers defense had really struggled early on. The Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey had brought guys like Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington in during the off-season to help on the defensive side of the ball, but yet the team has still struggled. He, then traded a fan favorite who has grown into a great player in the league, in Gary Trent Jr. for Norman Powell.
WHY HAVE THEY CONTINUED TO STRUGGLE?
For most of this season, the Blazers have dealt with the most injuries out of any team in the NBA. Early in the season, they were down four out of their five starters. During that time, Lillard as usual was balling out and making a case for MVP.
But, when you take a look back at 2019, when the Blazers made it to the Western Conference Finals, the Portland Trail Blazers had a top-20 defense. When Nurkic got hurt late in the regular season, that defense had slacked off.
Early on, this season before Jusuf Nurkic got hurt again, the Blazers were once again middle of the pack on the defensive side of the ball. But now that Nurkic is fully healthy and back in the lineup (he’s had the time to get back to where he was before the leg injury, and lead a Blazers defense that has been struggling).
THE BEAST IS BACK
Over the last 10 games, Nurkic has averaged 15.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks. Its a small sample size, yes. But he’s had 10 good games in a row, so it makes you wonder if the Bosnian Beast is back.
He has been on a grind to get back to where he is right now.
“I’s a grind. Obviously, people just see the success. But the grind, the injuries, the bad days, its all the stuff we go through as a human being. People kind of underlook that and realize that we are not superhuman.”
THE BLAZERS DEFNSE
Since the trade for Norman Powell, the Blazers have started a three-guard lineup. Which is something you typically see in high school and college, and not in the NBA because of a lack of height. Especially when there is three 6-3 guards. But, it seems as though the lineup is working especially as of late.
So, there has been improvement on the defensive side, and currently the Blazers are one of the best defensive teams in the league.
The Portland Trail Blazers are currently 6th in the Western Conference. As of right now with 5 games left, it’s looking like they’ll be facing either the Denver Nuggets or the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. If they don’t make it deep into the playoffs, some changes could be coming.
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