Winner – Jusuf Nurkic
When it comes to Nurkic, there is only one preseason stat that counts. Four. That is the number of games he has played out of a possible five, spending on average 18 minutes per night on the floor as well. Even better, Nurkic managed to break the 20 minute mark in the last two games.
The health concerns around Nurkic will linger until he can put a string of regular season games together, but the Suns wouldn’t have had him play four games if they didn’t think he could handle it. Given that it was unclear if he’d even start the season after the trade went down, that is another positive.
Best of all, Nurkic has been all of the things that the front office were excited about him being in limited minutes so far. Namely, passing out of the post well, screening for teammates and finding his footing on the offensive end quickly. Defensively, it has mostly been better than advertized, although expectations were certainly low for the 29-year-old.
The highlight of the preseason (if such a thing exists) for the Suns was watching Nurkic go head-to-head with Ayton in one half of basketball… and thoroughly dominate him. Read into it what you will, but to have more fight and aggression and to win the battle so soon after being traded for one another was a big plus for Nurkic. He needs to carry this momentum into the regular season.