Injuries are the worst part of sports and I think all sports fans can agree on that. Even worse than just your average sports injury are the ones that nobody wants to see the video of and where players on the opposing team either run away from the scene or immediately call for the trainers of the team that the player just got hurt for. Well, last night the Portland Trail Blazers were dealt one of those injuries when Jusuf Nurkic was lost for the season with a gruesome compound fracture in his leg.
Now there is some good news out of this, or at least as good of news as could possibly come out of this situation as Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium is reporting that Nurkic has had his surgery and he suffered no nerve or muscle damage. It’ll still be a long road to recovery, but no nerve or muscle damage means that he should eventually be able to make a full comeback, although that timetable for recovery is still very unknown with the injury being so fresh.
While the concern with this injury should be more with Nurkic and how his career and long-term health are going to be impacted, there are still basketball games to be played and as far as those games go, the Blazers are likely going to feel the impact of this injury, as Nurkic was having the best season of his career and had arguably passed up CJ McCollum as the Blazers second-best player behind Damian Lillard. And to kick the Blazers while they’re down. McCollum is also out indefinitely with a knee strain and while he is expected back this season, most likely at the start of the postseason, he likely won’t be 100%.
Portland decided to bring back much of the same roster after being swept as the three seed last season by the New Orleans Pelicans, to see if they could make it past the first round after losing their last 10 postseason games. These two injuries are an absolute killer to a team that has already not been able to win a playoff game, let alone a series.
The good thing for Portland is that this season they have Enes Kanter to be able to step into the lineup and he is capable of putting up similar numbers to Nurkic (15.6 PPG and 10.4 RPG), but Kanter is not nearly the defender that Nurkic is.
Jusuf Nurkic ranks 19th in the league in defensive rating and he is tied for 20th in the league in defensive win shares, while Kanter is nowhere near those numbers defensively.
On top of being a much better defender, Nurkic is also a much better passer than Kanter, which opens up the Portland offense. So while Kanter is more than capable of putting up good numbers in terms of points and he can score with his back to the basket, he is still not quite the all-around offensive player that Jusuf Nurkic is.
Again, Portland should be glad they at least have Enes Kanter because last season they did not have an option like that off the bench, but overall Nurkic is more valuable, and the effects of the Nurkic injury go past Kanter moving into the starting lineup. It also means that Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins are going to be slated for more minutes, which is something that should make Portland fans nervous going into the postseason.
So that’s basically saying that when the bench has to come in for Portland is when they will probably feel the impact of this injury even more than when the starting lineup is in.
Another big impact of this is that while improved over the past couple of years on defense, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum aren’t known for putting the clamps on opposing guards and having Nurkic at the back end can help cover up any defensive weakness in the backcourt.
We will never know if a healthy Portland team would’ve been able to win a postseason series with this exact team after being swept last season as the three seed and now Portland is looking at a lengthy recovery for one of their franchise cornerstones.
Top Photo: Randy Rasmussen/The Associated Press