The center position for the Phoenix Suns has been a productive one, even if the statistics aren’t popping off of the page at to you. Between Jusuf Nurkic and Drew Eubanks, the Suns have an interior duo that provides production, physicality, rebounding, scoring, playmaking, and “fit”. Fit is probably the most important aspect of their tandem.
Are you gonna be floored by the statistical output of Nurkic every night? Probably not. He’s going to have some games and when she scores 20 points and abuses the opposing center. Conversely, he’s going to have nights when he scores three points and his effectiveness comes in the playmaking department.
It’s been a lot of “Nurkic vs. Eubanks”, but why not both?— Suns Are Better (@SunsAreBetter) November 18, 2023
They bring two different skillsets to the table, and balance each other out. Allows flexibility in what the team needs for the moment.
The Suns have a great thing going at C. https://t.co/Lxfx3jMUTC
Through the first 13 games of the season, Nurk and Eubanks have combined for 18.3 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. They’re shooting 51.5% from the field, with Eubanks shooting 100% from beyond the arc (2-of-2) and Nurkic at 25.8% (8-of-31). When you consider that Deandre Ayton alone averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.7 assists on 58.9% shooting last season, its apparent that the Suns gave up the more talented prospect in their trade with the Portland Trail Blazers this past September.
What we are seeing from both Nurkic and Eubanks is price for value paid.
Nurk makes $16.9 million a year. That is 52% of what Deandre Ayton is making in Portland at $32.5 million. With DA, a former number one overall draft pick, that contract carried with it expectations. It was an expectation to be consistent, an expectation to be dominant, an expectation to play at the level and what he was being paid.
Ayton’s contract, from an annual average value standpoint ($33.2 million), is on the same level as Bam Adebayo ($32.6 million) and Karl Anthony-Towns ($31.7 million). We expected the same production from DA that those players generated and we didn’t get it. Therefore, we were disappointed.
The annual average value of Nurkic’s contract is $17.5 million. Who does that put him in the class with? Jakob Poeltl ($19.5 million) and Zach Collins ($17.4 million). These are players who are quality centers, they’re just not perennial All-Stars. They play a role on their team and contribute effort to help that team win, rather than be the driving force that equates to winning.
You will still see it when Nurkic has a down game — and he’s had some — that he is worthless and we need to trade him as soon as we can.
Trade Nurk I’ve had enough— One Time (@Debellonia19) November 18, 2023
Those who are beating that drum, I pose this question for you: have any of you watched the NBA before?
Sure, centers are winning MVPs right now, but it’s the same two guys over the past three seasons. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are the unicorns; they are the exceptions, not the rule. Nearly every team struggles on the interior with consistency. That’s the modern NBA. Dynamic and elite guards are the driving force behind winning championships. Recency bias and the Denver Nuggets say otherwise, but Jokic is unworldly.
Nurkic provides exactly what Phoenix needs, and it’s going to be inconsistent. That’s the name of the game. It might be rebounding one night, scoring the next, play making the next. He will have games and he is in foul trouble and won’t have much impact on the game whatsoever. To expect a $16.9 million center to provide Jokic-level production is like expecting Ferrari-esque performance from your Ford Focus.
When Nurkic is played off the court, whether it be due to foul trouble or physical limitations, the Suns astutely signed Drew Eubanks to be his backup. Drewbanks has been a spark who is playing well above his price for paid. Veteran minimum contracts at the center position? Damion Jones. Mo Bamba. Jaxson Hayes. Thomas Bryant.
Given the flashy production that we’ve seen from Eubanks thus far this season, some believe that starting Eubanks over Nurkic is the right answer. I disagree. Do you want to know a way to undermine and destroy the confidence of a $16.9 million-a-year player? Put them on the bench. Watching them become grumpy and disengaged. Watch them become moody and frustrated. Give Eubanks more minutes if you like, but don’t take don’t give him Nurkic’s starting job.
The production that the Suns are receiving from their center position exceeds what they are paying for at the moment, and that is much needed. With Bradley Beal expected to miss at least 9 more games, Phoenix needs production where they can get it. Right now, the center position is providing that.