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BlazersEdge dishes on what to love... and hate... about new Phoenix Suns Nurkic, Little and Johnson

Editor Dave Deckard helps us know what to expect from the new acquisitions.

Portland Trail Blazers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns made a trade last week that brought in a new starting center in Jusuf Nurkic and pair of backups in Nassir Little and Keon Johnson from the Portland Trail Blazers.

While it’s likely that Keon Johnson gets waived by end of training camp — his deal is not guaranteed and the Suns have to jettison a pair of players before regular season starts — the other two new Suns are quite probably going to be part of the Suns rotation. Nurkic takes over as the starting center, and the 23-year old Nassir Little has some potential as a starting small forward some day.

Both have been Blazers for at least the last four seasons, so I asked Dave Deckard, long time editor of, to let Suns fans know what we will love and what we will hate about each of the players.

Here’s what Dave had to say...

What will Suns fans love about Nurkic, Little and Johnson?

Jusuf Nurkic

Phoenix fans will love his underrated passing and rebounding, plus his willingness to play help defense. Nurkic is a good teammate. He doesn’t have the one-on-one post or defensive abilities that typify a great center but he understands the game and his place in it. He’s going to play off of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and company, not over and against them.

Nassir Little

If he’s healthy, Phoenix fans should love Nassir Little’s fearless charge at big plays and the incredible athleticism that makes the approach effective. Little has been a work in progress fitting into a team system. He’s definitely improved, smoothing out rough edges, but he’s not at his best when holding back. He’ll drop your jaw with a run at a blocked shot or rebound that nobody should be able to get, but he somehow does (or gets close enough to be disruptive). He’ll also take shots without fear, including a drive-and-dribble pull-up that looks pretty nice nowadays.

Keon Johnson

Keon goes boing. Like a spring. He’s too inexperienced to count on much else, but his airtime is worth watching.

What will Suns fans hate about them?


Nurkic isn’t particularly mobile. He can be, when his weight is down and motivation up, but both of those fluctuate through seemingly every season. He’ll look like a borderline All-Star some weeks, then he’ll have your collective head in your hands. Maybe a transition to a contending franchise will re-motivate him. When “Nurk Fever” hits it’s pretty scary.

But Nurkic too often lets himself be ignored, or just disappears, or just watches someone shoot from the three-point arc instead of trying to close out. That hurts, especially when you’ve seen his good stuff. Also you won’t like his one-on-one post moves. Don’t try it.


Little has been injured through much of his career. He’s never put it all together. He has the potential to be a starting small forward, but he’s never been reliable enough to capitalize on it. He’s probably a year or two behind his growth curve. As such, it’s hard to play him for extended minutes.


Keon still goes boing. Just concentrate on that.

At their best, can they be strong contributors to the Suns title hopes?

At his best, Nurkic definitely can. I can easily recall times when Nurk was the only Trail Blazers player on the floor defending. That’s a hopeless situation, but he still looked pretty good. Tip-top Nurkic is shiny. How often you’ll get that version is the question.

Nassir Little can become an opportunistic bench contributor, the kind of guy you send in when you want to create four minutes of hell for the opponent.

Johnson hasn’t shown he can be a factor, but he really does go boing!

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