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Comparing Jusuf Nurkic to Deandre Ayton this season

Nov 19, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic (20) dribbles against Utah Jazz forward John Collins (20) during the second half at Delta Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

With Deandre Ayton returning to the Footprint Center on Tuesday night to take on his former team, the Phoenix Suns, it seems only fitting to evaluate how he has fared this season compared to the Suns new center, Jusuf Nurkic.

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Deandre Ayton was previously drafted #1 overall by the Suns in the 2018 draft. Ayton, who was born in the Bahamas, also played high school basketball at Hillcrest Prep High School in Phoenix before attending the University of Arizona.

In total, combined between high school, college, and the NBA, Ayton had played basketball at some level in Arizona for eight seasons, from age 17 to 24.

However, after a new front office change with the Suns and an abrupt end to their 2023 NBA playoff run, Ayton’s time in Phoenix came to an end as he was traded over to the Portland Trail Blazers in a monumental three-team deal that included Damian Lillard going to the Bucks.

In return for giving up their former 1st overall pick, the Suns acquired, along with a handful of other depth pieces, center Jusuf Nurkic.

So, how has this swap treated the Phoenix Suns so far through the first month of the NBA season?

When looking at the two players statlines, they are fairly similar, with neither gaining much of an edge.

Per 36 minutes, both players are averaging right around 14 points per game, while Ayton holds the lead in rebounding and Nurkic holds the lead in assists.

Also, both players are averaging in the vicinity of 2.5 turnovers per 36 minutes.

Although Nurkic does hold a much higher +/- at +26, given the fact that the Trail Blazers are currently on a seven-game losing streak and hold an overall record of 3-10, it would not be very fair to take Ayton’s +/- into consideration.

So, altogether, while Ayton is shooting the ball more and collecting more points, Nurkic is passing the ball more, accounting for more points through assists.

The good news is, as the two battle it out at the Footprint Center, we may finally see who actually has the clear edge.

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