When you look at the box score after the Phoenix Suns' victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, on Wednesday night, and look over to Jusuf Nurkic's stat line, you might wonder if he played at all. They don’t jump off the page at you, rather, they barely exist. 3 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. All in 24 minutes played.
The thing that sticks out is the 0 turnovers from Nurk. He brings multiple skillsets to the team, from rebounding and size to basketball IQ and passing, but this might be the primary statistic that matters regarding what he brings to the Suns' offense. Prior to Wednesday’s game, he was averaging 2.1 turnovers a game. Multiple reasons exist as to why, but the box score is showing that he might still be figuring things out with this offense.
When you actually watch interactions between timeouts and/or in between plays or mishaps, you can see there’s still a lot of back-and-forth between Nukic, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant. This is all part of the process, and Nurk can take the yelling and ordering around from Book and KD because he knows how good this team will be once they all figure it out and can stay healthy.
The pillars to the Suns' success this year are Book, KD, and Bradley Beal. Every player around them needs to fill their role and not necessarily fill the stat sheet.
Accurate passing is a big part of the Nurk “fit” and plays like the one below are what keep you excited for the future. He brings a wrinkle to the offense that betters the stars on the Suns.
When things go sour at times with the offense, you can see the body language and frustration between the players as I mentioned before. Body language is a thing that sorely sticks out, and it may be nothing, but let's talk about it.
There is one thing that I do notice during timeouts and in between plays. Going to the games, I love to watch the bench and the interactions between players and coaches. Hand gestures, the hanging of a head; plenty can be taken from simply watching the players during a timeout and not the t-shirts being launched into every section but 112.
Nurk stands out — primarily due to his size — and not necessarily in a good way, depending on how you look at it. When it comes to his body language, he seems to expect a lot from everybody and can complain a little bit too much. Hands and heads tell a lot.
Simpliar body language can be seen from KD who can, after a turnover or a bad possession by a teammate, be seen laying into them a little bit. It is probably fine and I think this team will work hard to bring things together. Just the shrugs and questionable looks on Nurk's face have me wondering if this thing is temporary or something to stay.
When you brought Booker into the mix Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he too had plenty to say to Nurk when complications occurred.
These things on the court might or might not spill into the locker room, but it seems to me that Booker and KD have a special connection on and off the court. I see Nurk as kind of an outsider right now waiting for the invite to the party. But it is early, I just don’t want to see the “blame game” continue on the court, because it isn’t very attractive.
Nurk will have his fit as the perfect set-up man and big body on defense when the matchups allow it. After the last few games, Drew Eubanks has shined, most notably in matchups against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night and the Wolves on Wednesday.
From practice to the game, the competition is everywhere on this team, and Eubanks might be breathing down Nurkic’s neck until this offense starts to really get going and healthy rotations are implemented. Let’s give it 20 games.