Fanpost: The Nuggets Euro Trifecta - Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, and Joffrey Lauvergne

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Joffrey Lauvergne, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic. All are 6'10 or taller. All have funky, European names. All are considered above average prospects with quality starter and even all-star potential. They also have each spent the majority of their Nuggets minutes at the Center position. According to Basketball Reference, Joffrey and Nikola have each spent 100% of their minutes at the Center position this year, and Nurkic spent 99% of his minutes there last year. That's a bad issue to have, as each player has the potential to blossom in the 30 minutes per game guys, but if none of them can play the Power Forward position, then only 48 minutes will be distributed among the three.

So how do the Nuggets combat this problem? Each player deserves to be on the court, so changes will have to be made in order to satisfy the needs of each player and the team as a whole. First, let's look at each guy and their current skill set:

(Stats as of December 18, 2015. Taken from BasketballReference, ESPN, and

Joffrey Lauvergne (2015-16)

MPG 2-point FGM/FGA 3-point FGM/FGA Rebound Rate Assist Rate Block Rate RPM (rank) Win shares/48
17.3 3.2/6.0 0.5/0.9 19.4% 12.7% 1.3% 0.64 (28) 0.190

The member of the group that has been the most consistent to date is King Joffrey himself. Having spent time at Power Forward in addition to Center last year, Lauvergne has assumed the starting Center role in his second season and flourished in limited action. He has only played in 11 of the 25 games, but during that time, he has filled the role of a Center very well, posting a 19.4% rebound rate in his 17.3 minutes. By comparison, Kenneth Faried is sporting an 18.7% rebound rate this year, so Joffrey is certainly holding his own.

As a Center though, Joffrey does not take as many shots in the paint as I think that position should. This could be him counterbalancing the presence of Kenneth Faried, who lives in the paint and rarely takes a shot from outside that area. He also does not have a great block rate for a Center, and while he could be playing sound positional defense, his block rate of 1.3% is the lowest of the three bigs.

Overall, Joffrey has done many great things on the offensive and defensive end, and is perhaps the most developed of the three as a balanced player. This leads me to believe that a transition to the Power Forward position would affect him the least. He takes almost one three pointer a game already as a Center, and thus far, he has been efficient. His attempts would likely increase here, and I think that this would be effective for opening up the offense. I have full confidence that he can make the right play based on his assist rate and low turnover rate. He makes the most sense at the 4 position long term.

Jusuf Nurkic (2014-15)

MPG 2-point FGM/FGA 3-point FGM/FGA Rebound Rate Assist Rate Block Rate RPM (rank) Win shares/48
17.8 2.8/6.1 0.0/0.1 18.7% 7.3% 4.8% 2.33 (13) 0.069

Ahhh the Bosnian Beast...recently he was cleared to return to full contact practice, which should be a joy to everyone following the Nuggets. Jusuf was one of the few positives last season, as he showed just how skilled he was on the defensive end, getting under the skin of the likes of Marc Gasol and Demarcus Cousins. There have been times where a rim protector has been needed this season for the Nuggets, and we can look no further than Nurkic's 4.8% block rate to get excited that we have one in-house.

Another reason why I see Nurkic as the main guy to hold down the middle for us is his RPM, ranked 13th among all Centers in 2014-15, is actually lower than it can be. Nurkic on offense was incredibly raw last year and he missed a bunch of shots that he will make over time, evidenced by his low field goal makes versus his attempts. He already had the 3rd best DRPM of any Center, besting the likes of Rudy Gobert, Tyson Chandler, and Joakim Noah, so fixing the ugly shooting he had around the rim last year and raising that percentage by a few notches will make his advanced stats go through the roof.

Overall, Jusuf Nurkic proved last year why he was starting quality as a Center, given his block and rebound rates, and at 21 years old, he has the time to develop more patience and skill around the rim on the offensive end. He projects as our starting Center for many years to come.

Jusuf Nurkic battles Demarcus Cousins

Nikola Jokic

MPG 2-point FGM/FGA 3-point FGM/FGA Rebound Rate Assist Rate Block Rate RPM (rank) Win shares/48
17.5 3.0/5.3 0.2/0.4 15.7% 9.6% 2.2% 0.85 (24) 0.173

Nikola Jokic has been a stud so far in his first 23 games. He's lanky. He's skinny. He's kinda slow. He can't jump worth a lick. He's also the most skilled Denver Nugget offensively outside of Danilo Gallinari.

Woah. Let me pause and say that the above statement is very forward and that there are a lot of players on the Nuggets who could make that claim. I haven't forgotten about Wilson Chandler, nor has Will Barton's recent explosion onto the scene been left out. The reason I say this is that Nikola Jokic has been successful in just about every situation that the Nuggets have thrown him in offensively. On post-ups, he's shot 13/25 or 52%. In the "Mid-Range" area he's shot 50% from 10-16 feet, right where the elbow and baseline reside, and he's shot 4/9 from 3. Mike Malone recently highlighted that analytics are nice, but it's still a make or miss league, and Nikola Jokic makes his shots. His footwork in all situations creates easier looks for himself, and are comparable to that of Jahlil Okafor, the 3rd overall pick in this draft. Speaking of which:

Player FG% Points Rebounds Assists Blocks Steals Turnovers
Player A 55.0 16.6 10.3 2.0 1.0 1.6 2.1
Player B 45.9 19.7 8.9 1.3 1.5 0.3 2.9

Player A is the per 36 minutes of Nikola Jokic, and Player B is the per 36 minutes of Jahlil Okafor. While he plays many less minutes than Okafor, he has shown comparable value so far, and at the 41st pick, that's a big deal. We may have picked up a great one here folks. The stats speak for themselves.

Due to a high number of steals per 36 minutes, I think we can surmise that his instincts and hands would be just fine if asked to guard most Power Forwards. Though he can be slow footed, he's also not done growing and becoming more athletic. Joffrey looks faster and more athletic this year after a year with the Nuggets conditioning staff, and I would hazard a guess that Jokic could do the same.

Jokic battling Deandre Jordan


To review, each player has a different skill set and can fit in with each other in different ways.

Lauvergne is the quickest of the bunch, and also has displayed a willingness to play on the perimeter when the need arises. He has the lowest turnover rate of the three, and the highest assist rate. Also, he played a bit of Power Forward in 2014-15 (26% of minutes came as the 4), so the transition should not be difficult for him.

Nurkic is the beast in the middle that moves people away from the rim on defense and physically moves them on offense. His skill set should put him next to the rim at all times. He affects the mindset of those around him on both ends of the court and demoralizes them with physical moves. He's a Center through and through.

Jokic is the wildcard, because he can truly flourish anywhere on the court, but he's at his best when he gets the ball in the post and elbow areas so that he can facilitate offense for himself and others. This leads me to believe that he will be used freely by Mike Malone to jumpstart the offense when he comes in, which means that he likely comes in for Nurkic most of the time.

The combination of Euro bigs that we will see the most of to start is likely Lauvergne and Jokic off the bench. There is no reason to take Kenneth Faried out of the starting lineup right now, and Jusuf Nurkic should assume his spot in the starting lineup immediately. Of the three potential pairings we can see, this is the order I am most excited about to watch:

  1. Jokic and Nurkic
  2. Lauvergne and Nurkic
  3. Lauvergne and Jokic

This is not who I would start initially, because I still want Faried and Nurkic to start with Lauvergne and Jokic backing them up, but statistically, the Jokic-Nurkic combo is by far the most appealing and star studded of the three.

The reasoning for this order applies to potential and ceiling. Joffrey has shown what his skill set is, and while incredibly useful off the bench, he doesn't make the superstar caliber moves and shots that Nurkic and Jokic have both shown. On the offensive end, Jokic has dazzled with footwork and finesse that previous post threats in Denver haven't used before, and Jokic is 20 years old. On the defensive end, Nurkic has defended Kobe Bryant, Demarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, and many more stars with the best of them, and he hasn't backed down. If anything Nurkic has had the cajones to talk back and show the superstars that he can play with them too. Nurkic is also 21 years old.

I'm not necessarily lobbying to trade anybody, but I want to see each of these combinations for as much time as I can throughout the rest of the season, through good minutes and bad minutes. Malone cannot be tricked into just playing Faried/Nurkic and Joffrey/Jokic together. He should mix and match as much as possible, because in all honesty, we just don't know who will work best together.

If we truly are looking for All-Star caliber talent, then Malone will see that Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic are the future (along with various other smaller players) of these Denver Nuggets, but just because they are both big doesn't mean they shouldn't play together. The best five players should be in the Starting Lineup if at all possible, and both Nurkic and Jokic will be making a claim for two of those five spots within the next year.

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