How Jusuf Nurkic Revolutionizes the Suns’ Center Position and Transforms their Identity

Devin Booker left the Phoenix Suns’ second elimination game blowout loss in the conference semifinals without uttering a single word – at least to the media.

He headed into the offseason without addressing the events that unfolded, both immediately after the game and during exit interviews the following day. Instead, he only shared a cryptic social media post, “36 unbothered,” a couple of days after the firing of head coach Monty Williams. Initially, fans speculated that it referred to the combined jersey numbers of Booker and Kevin Durant. However, Booker clarified that he was simply enjoying a leisurely round of golf spanning 36 holes.

Despite the ambiguity surrounding his post, Booker inadvertently coined a nickname for the Suns’ exceptional duo.

To keep fans entertained until the season opener against the Golden State Warriors on October 24th – which is 23 days away from Sunday – Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman, co-hosts of the “Empire of the Suns” podcast, will be joined by Erik Ruby, a contributor from “Arizona Sports.” Together, they will discuss 36 crucial storylines for the Phoenix Suns’ 2023-24 season.

Previously –

Day 36: Devin Booker enters his prime
Day 35: The Suns have put in the work this summer
Day 34: Suns do have some continuity with returning bench players
Day 33: Kevin Durant gets integrated
Day 32: Bradley Beal proving something
Day 31: How the Big 3 develop chemistry

Day 30: Mat Ishbia’s first full season as owner
Day 29: How does Suns’ place of play change without Chris Paul
Day 28: Suns can maximize Yuta Watanabe in proper role
Day 27: Deandre Ayton finally is traded
Day 26: Who is Suns’ biggest threat in Western Conference?
Day 25: Matrix and STAT in Ring of Honor
Day 24: Phoenix Suns’ most appetizing lineups combinations
Day 23: The importance of Kevin Young’s return to the Suns
Day 22: The revamped Suns sunburst jerseys

Day 21: TV antennas and Phoenix Suns basketball for all
Day 20: Is there room on the Suns to unlock Bol Bol?
Day 19: What Grayson Allen brings to Suns
Day 18: Suns’ championship expectations
Day 17: Drew Eubanks could bring pop to Suns’ center group
Day 16: Olympic implications

Day 15: Jusuf Nurkic changes the Suns in the middle

Erik Ruby: Before delving into Jusuf Nurkic’s impact on the court for the Phoenix Suns, let’s briefly consider how he will influence the team off the court.

If Deandre Ayton continued playing for the Suns this season, he would have carried a considerable burden with him. All eyes would have been scrutinizing his performance, and questions about his long-term future with the Suns would have been a constant distraction. Such a dynamic within the locker room could have taken a toll on the team over the course of the season, especially when the Suns have gone all-in on the present and boast three of the game’s best players wearing their jerseys.

By sending Ayton to Portland, even if one argues that he is superior to Nurkic, the Suns have the opportunity to start fresh and focus on what they do best – playing basketball. Nurkic, the new man in the middle, has demonstrated his willingness to embrace his role, avoid complaining about touches, and be the best fit for the team rather than just focusing on individual stats.

Speaking of basketball, Nurkic brings several new assets to the team that can enhance the Suns’ offensive strategy, as showcased in the first preseason game. He possesses superior passing skills compared to Ayton and can serve as an outlet for stars and role players to cut and move around him. Additionally, he is more inclined to shoot from beyond the arc, thus providing greater floor spacing.

However, the Suns may miss Ayton’s athleticism and potential on the court. Nevertheless, they deemed the risk of retaining him not worth the potential reward.

Kellan Olson: There are two inherent risks associated with Nurkic as the starting center for the Suns, both involving his ability to stay on the court.

The first risk pertains to his health. Over the past five years, Nurkic has had a concerning injury history. While the “if healthy” caveat can become tiresome when discussing any team, it holds particular significance for the Suns, especially given Nurkic’s role as the center.

If he manages to stay healthy until April, there is a valid concern that opponents will target him defensively to such an extent that the Suns will have to turn to other options during crunch time in playoff games. When positioned correctly, Nurkic can effectively protect the rim and serve as a physical obstacle for drivers attempting to finish at the basket. However, his lack of mobility means he must display exceptional awareness and positioning to adequately defend the basket.

If Nurkic meets both these criteria, his screen-setting and passing abilities can significantly benefit the Big 3 within the Suns’ offensive scheme. However, if he fails to fulfill these expectations, the Suns will need to explore other alternatives, placing a heavy burden on their depth.

Kevin Zimmerman: The Ayton trade aimed to acquire Nurkic, who fits well into the team’s plans. Additionally, the Suns secured two potential rotation players, effectively replenishing their roster depth amidst the CP3-Ayton-Booker-Durant puzzle that defined this offseason. However, Nurkic himself comes with uncertainties.

Nevertheless, this does not imply that I am not a staunch supporter of Nurkic. He brings a physicality and an intimidating aura that helps redefine the image of this Suns team. Moreover, he excels as a passer and sets solid screens. He may even be underrated when it comes to his defensive capabilities under Vogel’s coaching.

However, there may come a point in the postseason where Nurkic’s limitations result in him being played off the floor. Similarly, Ayton faced this scenario in the past two postseasons, although for reasons unrelated to his physical abilities. The Suns now possess a clear understanding of what to expect from Nurkic – both the positives and negatives – an element of certainty that was absent with Ayton.


Denial of responsibility! Being Sportsfan is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
DMCA compliant image

Leave a Comment