Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers

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Age: 23

Free-Agent Status: Restricted

2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.4 blocks, 50.5 percent shooting

Advanced Stats: 19.2 PER, 8.40 TPA, 1.91 RPM

Jusuf Nurkic’s future with the Blazers is foggier than ever following their first-round dispatch at the hands of the Pelicans.

Bigs with finite pick-and-pop range and face-up chops must be elite stoppers to carry real cachet. As the rim-protection anchor for the NBA’s eighth-best regular-season defense, Nurkic appeared to have just that. Opponents shot 54.8 nike nfl jerseys cheap percent against him at the hoop—the ninth-best mark among 98 players to challenge at least 200 point-blank looks—and Portland defended like a top-four outfit with him on the floor.

Squaring off with New Orleans did a number on Nurkic’s stands. He was no match for the frontcourt combination of Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. While no one is well-equipped to handle Davis, Nurkic has limitations beyond the restricted area that hamstring the Blazers’ ability to react.

Sticking Al-Farouq Aminu on Davis—or a fellow unicorn—leaves Nurkic to chase around power forwards and glorified wings. And he struggles against explosive rim-runners or anyone with a semblance of outside-in handles. He would have been better off facing a fully healthy Pelicans squad that had DeMarcus Cousins jumping center.

Investing in Nurkic for his rim protection alone toes a dangerous line. As Cleaning The Glass’ Ben Falk nfl jerseys cheap nike wrote, his stinginess around the iron is more systemic than developed:

“Jusuf Nurkic patrols the paint for Portland with a unique mix of oafishness and grace that has produced a consistent track record as a strong rim protector. But it’s about more than personnel: with only a partial season of Nurkic, nfl nike jerseys cheap Terry Stotts’ outfit ranked first in this stat last year (though not by the same margin) and this season is their fourth top-three finish in the last five years in this stat, despite a changing roster.”

Portland’s salary-cap situation doesn’t help matters. Carrying Nurkic’s $8.8 million hold alone drags the ledger into luxury-tax territory ($123 million)—and that doesn’t include potential new deals for fellow restricted free agents Pat Connaughton or Shabazz Napier.nike nfl jersey cheap

Soldiering onward with Zach Collins and Ed Davis offers genuine temptation. The Blazers outscored opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions with them playing together in the regular season, and the two gave them more defensive maneuverability versus the Pelicans.

But Davis is a free agent himself, and Collins only started seeing a lion’s share of his time at the 5 in the playoffs. Exploring the alternative guarantees Portland nothing—infinitely so if Stotts and his defensive scheme are shown the door.cheap nfl jerseys nike

NBA Finals

1. Houston Rockets vs. 3. Philadelphia 76ers

Boiling a playoff series down to a single stat is reductive.

Let’s do it anyway.

During the second half of the season, when they no longer faced a murderers’ row, the 76ers emerged as one of the league’s best defensive teams. No squad was better at depressing its foes’ shooting percentages, and Philly also forces a fair number of turnovers while cleaning the glass to avoid allowing too many second-chance opportunities. cheap custom nfl jerseys

But the Sixers do have a major weakness that plays right into Houston’s hands:nfl custom jerseys cheap  fouls. 710325ebebaca22e8429447d188f26bc_crop_exact

Only the Memphis Grizzlies (0.333) allow more free throws per field-goal attempt than Philadelphia (0.293), which spells trouble against a team that makes a living at the charity stripe. Led by Harden’s endless parade, the Rockets rank third leaguewide in the offensive version of the same statistic. And they’re going to exploit that advantage, which could only be magnified if Philly’s youngsters get slightly shaken by playing on the Finals stage.cheap customized nfl jerseys

Even if they don’t, that’s bad news for a foul-prone centerpiece such as nike nfl jerseys cheap Joel Embiid. Despite improving substantially upon his rookie efforts, the big man is still averaging 3.9 whistles per 36 minutes.

We’re projecting this as the first opportunity for Simmons and Embiid to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but it won’t be their last. And when they inevitably return to this final battle for the NBA’s ultimate reward, they’ll get to grow from this initial experience.

But they aren’t there quite yet.

Even during a season in which the Eastern Conference features the better-than-ever nfl jerseys cheap nike Raptors and the James-led Cavaliers, it remains the weaker half of the league. The Rockets, on the other hand, are the toast of the Association.
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They’ll prove it when Harden and Paul finally get those pesky playoff monkeys off their backs.

No. 25 to No. 21

25. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (23)

Fournette was a big part of Jacksonville’s run to the AFC Championship Game last year, grinding out 1,040 yards on the ground and rushing for nine scores. However, he also averaged just 3.9 yards a carry as a rookie. While he’s unquestionably a talented tailback, Fournette would need to raise his per-carry average to vault up a list like this one next year.nfl jerseys cheap nike

24. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (23)

It’s unsure at what point in the development of the Watt children that their parents started feeding them quarterbacks. But just like older brother Justin James (his friends call him J.J.), Watt showed an affinity for feasting on signal-callers early as a pro, notching two sacks in his NFL debut on his way to seven total in his inaugural go-round. He’s only just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.

23. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns (22)hi-res-c8ecb1e02268f4fffdfb205d84fcb48a_crop_exactnfl nike jerseys cheap

At first glance, Garrett’s 31 tackles and seven sacks might not appear overly impressive from a player who was selected first overall in the 2017 draft. But Garrett also missed five games last season—when he was on the field, the burst and explosiveness that helped convince Cleveland to take him was on display. If he can stay healthy, watch out.
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22. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (24)

A year ago at this time—after guiding Dallas to 13 wins and an NFC East title as a rookie—Prescott likely would have ranked inside the top 10 on this list. However, without Ezekiel Elliott to lean on for part of 2017 (Elliott missed six games), cheap nfl jerseys nike Prescott struggled—he threw nine more interceptions than the season before and saw his passer rating fall by 18.3 points. Prescott’s third season could be a make-or-break one.

21. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (24)

Gordon has steadily improved over his three seasons, topping 1,000 total yards back in 2016 and then upping that to 1,105 rushing yards and over 1,500 total yards last season. Gordon also played in all 16 games last year for the first time. If he can back last year’s numbers up, the Bolts have the makings of a sneaky-good team in the AFC West in 2018.