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Denver Nuggets rookie Jusuf Nurkic gobbling up rebounds

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Denver's rookie center has been a force on the boards.

Jusuf Nurkic gobbles up one of his nine rebounds against the Bulls.
Jusuf Nurkic gobbles up one of his nine rebounds against the Bulls.
Gary Dineen - Getty Images

It has been known for quite some time, and Kenneth Faried has shown that it's true. Rebounding translates from the college game to the NBA game. Well, Jusuf Nurkic has shown that his rebounding is translating well to the NBA game, too.

Here are three totals from the preseason, can you match the minutes and rebounds to the player?

2014-15 Preseason Minutes Rebounds
Player A 116 56
Player B 143 35
Player C 122 23

In the above spreadsheet, Player A is grabbing rebounds about every two minutes he's on the floor, Player B about every four minutes, and Player C about every five and a half minutes.

Player A is Jusuf Nurkic.

Player B is Timofey Mozgov.

Player C is Kenneth Faried.

Make no bones about it, Nurkic is still very much a work in progress, but the promise he has shown already is encouraging. He has shown various post moves (various touch on those shots, too), shot blocking ability, a pretty decent looking jumper, a willing passer, and perhaps most importantly: he uses his body well.

Nurkic likes to mix it up to gain or deny post position, and can often be found jockeying for rebounding position under the hoop. Jusuf has a knack for tracking down the ball, and that's not just him being a space eater. One of the first things I noticed about Nurkic, with the Nuggets, is how he moves when a shot is about to go up. Nurkic begins the rebounding process as the shooter is getting ready to launch and that puts him in optimal position, quite often. He understands boxing out, but more than that, he understands how to use his body to his advantage.

Let's take a look at six of his nine rebounds against the Clippers on Oct. 18th in Las Vegas:

Play 1: Nurkic sticks with the offensive rebound

First things first, Nurkic transitions from the defensive end to the offensive end exactly how Brian Shaw wants him to. He runs right to the rim, gets under the hoop a little, understands that Nate Robinson's corner three has a good chance to miss long, sets up position to get the offensive board, sticks with the long rebound, and taps it to his teammate.

It's a pretty easy item here, but Nurkic understanding that NateRob's shot would miss long is key. Rebounding can be about athleticism, but it also has a lot to do with understanding where a missed shot could go. Good position and good drive to stay with the ball and secure another offensive possession for the Nuggets.

(If you haven't read Kirk Goldsberry's rebounding piece for Grantland.com yet, do so! Click here.)

Play 2: Nurkic gets inside position on delayed play

Altitude TV's Scott Hastings would probably cringe at Nurkic's screen attempt to free up Wilson Chandler, but the way he rolls off the screen attempt to establish inside position on Ekpe Udoh (#13) is a thing of beauty. This is Nurkic displaying how he understands using his body. He gets to the front of the rim, boxes Udoh out, even before Chandler's shot goes up, and has about the entire right side of the hoop blocked off for the offensive board, which he grabs. Nurkic's position is so good that he easily could have grabbed the ball had it come off the front of the rim or to the right.

Play 3: Defensive board after a beefy swat

Nurkic plays a little loose on his defensive assignment of Blake Griffin. Jusuf comes off very wide on the pick-and-roll, but recovers well as Griffin isn't playing aggressively. Blake sets a screen on NateRob and then sets another one as Matt Barnes is rolling around behind the screen for an interior pass. Nurkic recognizes the screen from Griffin on Chandler and moves onto Barnes, blocks his shot, and grabs a rebound between Blake and Barnes - a nice little Dikembe Mutombo-lite elbow rip to secure the board.

One knock on Nurkic is that he doesn't possess great hops. Seven-footers don't need tremendous hops to be highly effective and his "ups" do well for him here on the block and on the rebound.

Play 4: Nurkic gets the tapped rebound

DeAndre Jordan and Nurkic battle for this board. Nurkic stays with Jordan and doesn't allow, one of the most athletic big men in the game, to get any free space. Like the first video above, Nurkic sets up good position on the left corner three. He doesn't allow Jordan to push him under the hoop, but Nurkic guesses wrong on the board. Jordan gets to it, but fortunately, NateRob is there to tap the ball (over DeAndre!) to Jusuf.

Nurkic is playing with a lot of natural strength. From my understanding, Nurkic hasn't spent tons of time in the weight room as it hadn't been overly emphasized overseas, but as he gets stronger it'll be even more difficult to move him around in the painted area. Great leverage as DeAndre tried to unseat him from his position.

Play 5: Nurkic out-muscles DeAndre

Whether Nurkic realizes it or not, DeAndre is one of the best offensive rebounders around. Jordan has plenty of highlight put-back dunks, but Nurkic doesn't allow for any of that here. Jusuf keeps contact with DeAndre throughout the play, even sort of fronting him and boxing him out as the ball is moving around.

Griffin's shot from the left side misses long, and Nurkic has excellent position to pull down the board over DeAndre (who is also known for getting up over the back of less athletic or smaller guys.

Play 6: Nurkic collects open space board

Nurkic is flying out of control a little bit on the initial steal attempt of the inbounds pass. He puts himself in compromising position out above the three-point line, but his teammates stop Griffin's drive. Blake kicks the ball to the left corner, and Nurkic recovers to take that shot away from Chris Paul. Paul swings the ball to Griffin for the long jumper from the elbow, Nurkic takes a peek at Paul (in case of an offensive board attempt), and then goes to the sky for the board with DeAndre in the area.

It has been nice seeing Nurkic's rebounding skills on display. It's nice to see him having some success in the preseason. Nurkic may be able to force his way onto the floor this season for some minutes due to his rebounding efforts alone. While the rookie's game may still take quite a bit of refining, he's on the right track.

***

Heading into the Clippers game, Nurkic was shooting 4-13 from the foul line. He was 0-2 in his first game against the Lakers and 2-6 against the Thunder. In Denver's last three preseason games, Nurkic is shooting 4-7 from the foul line. Maybe he's calming down a bit, because his foul shooting in Europe had been pretty decent around 70%.

He has an odd release as he bends his right elbow out to the right and kind of twists the ball on his release. It's not important to have perfect shooting form, but could the Nuggets mess with his mechanics if he stays shaky on his foul shot and jumper? If it ain't broke, don't fix it ... we'll see.

Here is Nurkic staying very loose with a couple fourth quarter freebies during an eight point game vs said Clippers.

Play 7: Nurkic goes 2-2 at the foul line