NBA Position: C
General Information: 19 year old from Tuzla, Bosnia. Most recently played for KK Cedevita of the Croatian League.
Measurables: 7'0", 280 lbs, 7'2" wingspan, 9'1 standing reach. Did not participate in the NBA combine.
2013-14 Season Statistics (Croatian League): 11.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, .7 APG, .9 SPG, 1 BPG, 1.9 TPG (55 games played, 16.5 Minutes per contest) - 55.9% FG, 68.3% FT, 51.7% TSP
Summary: Nurkic will snag a first round selection due to his size and strength alone, but while he's still fairly raw, he does come in with a solid low-post game. He doesn't have great verticality, and there are concerns about how he'll face off against more lengthy and athletic opponents, but he's got quick feet and is a tough, gritty player. Given a few years of growth (especially with defensive fundamentals), he could become a very solid low-post anchor.
Offensive Breakdown: For a 19 year old with limited basketball experience, Nurkic has a nice back-to-the-basket game. He was strong enough to post up most of his opponents in the Croatian leagues, and he finished at the basket with a nice array of hook-shots or spin moves. He's also a capable free throw shooter at 68.3% (despite an odd hitch to his shot), so there is hope that with time he might be able to add a mid-range shot to his arsenal.
His main weakness is his offensive IQ. He ended up with 1.9 turnovers a game in limited playing time, or 4.6 turnovers per 40 minutes. He has good enough hands that he doesn't miss entry passes, but he makes too many poor decisions when he can't force his way into the paint. He needs to extend his post-move range and figure out ways to score when he's more than six feet out from the basket. Passing is not part of Nurkic's game yet (10% assist rate), but he isn't a black-hole on offense; he just makes careless passes that end up as turnovers.
Nurkic doesn't have NBA level verticality; his no-step vertical was measured at 23 inches at the 2013 Eurocamp. He's good a nice 7'2 inch wingspan, but his lack of hops means he won't be a great above-the-rim player. This puts more pressure on him to develop a wide-array of post moves to compensate.
Defensive Breakdown: Nurkic's biggest test will be how he handles NBA centers on defense. His lack of NBA verticality or insane reach are a concern in a league where centers are getting faster and more athletic.
The good signs; Nurkic has quick feet and won't have a problem keeping pace with most centers, even if he lacks their explosiveness. He's already got great size and muscle mass, and he's only 19 years old. He's a quick, instinctual defender and has good timing on his blocks and steals. His block rate was an impressive 7.9%, and while he lacks great leaping ability, he should be a solid shot blocker in the NBA.
His defensive IQ is a serious concern. He was in constant foul trouble, drawing 3.2 fouls a game despite only playing 16 minutes a contest. He's too quick to reach for steals rather than sticking to his man. He doesn't always get onto his mark quick enough, and for a guy with his strength he's had issues with keeping his opponents from posting him up.
Intangibles: Nurkic struggled with conditioning issues in 2012-13, and by all accounts that continued into 2013-14. Physically he's tough player and not afraid to battle with the bigs, but needs to stick harder to his opponents defensively. DraftExpress' Mike Schmitz notes Nurkic only started playing organized basketball in 2009, so he has less than five years under his belt. That makes his offensive skills even more impressive and his defensive weaknesses a bit more understandable.
Fit with Sacramento: I don't think Nurkic would be a great fit alongside DeMarcus Cousins. In a few years, Nurkic might be an Omic Asik type defensive anchor, but I worry about how a Cousins/Nurkic duo would handle hyper-athletic guys like Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka or Anthony Davis.
Offensively, Nurkic would give the Kings another low-post banger who can outmuscle opponents, and if he reaches his full potential offensively, he and Cousins would produce a terrifying 1-2 punch inside. Nurkic lacks the mid-range shot to help spread the floor, but even if he develops that, his primary offensive spot will always be in the paint. Having two guys whose primary weapons are with their backs to the basket might crowd the paint too much.
Finally, Nurkic is rawer than most of the prospects likely available to the Kings at No. 8. Defensively, he's rawer than Noah Vonleh, which is saying something. If Sacramento is looking to add someone who can contribute immediately, they shouldn't take Nurkic. His size and skill-set are impressive, but he's two/three years away from being a viable contributor.
Nurkic would be best going to a team that doesn't need him immediately (or doesn't hope to win immediately) where they could develop him for the long-term. While his lack of athleticism and IQ issues are concerning, I do believe given time he'll develop into a very solid post anchor on both ends of the floor.
There's not a ton of film readily available for armchair scouts on Nurkic, but I found one full game - a February 1st contest against Siroki, in which Nurkic scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Skip ahead to about the 10 minute mark to see where Nurkic first checks in (and starts with a foul).
Otherwise, trust the always fantastic DraftExpress breakdowns: