2. Jusuf Nurkic
We’re getting to the stage where we may collectively owe center Jusuf Nurkic an apology. Many fans were not happy that he was the main player the Suns got back from the Portland Trail Blazers in a late offseason trade for Deandre Ayton. Yet all Nurkic has done since that moment is show up, say all of the right things, and most importantly of all, actually play.
There may come a time during this season where Nurkic is unavailable due to injury. It feels like many fans almost expect it at this point. But through 15 games, to have played and started in all of them, all while playing 26.8 minutes per night, has been huge for the team. Especially with Beal being unavailable and the center position an area of weakness behind Nurkic.
Drew Eubanks has been an excellent backup – really exceeding all expectations laid out for him early – but the prospect of relying on him more than they already are is a scary one for the Suns. Which is why it has been great to see Nurkic show up and give 11.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
It goes beyond that with Nurkic though, and this has been especially true during the winning run. He spoke before the season began about filling in around the stars, screening and moving without the ball, passing well and generally doing whatever has been asked of him. It is one thing to say that, and quite another to actually do it.
Defensively Nurkic has been a touch better for his team than last season (rating of 113.4 when he is on the court for the Suns, compared to 114.3 with the Trail Blazers), but offensively he has played his part in the aforementioned rise to the top in the last five games. With a net rating of 5.7, his highest since 2020-21, Nurkic is playing his part, and playing it well.