A healthy Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins -- No one gets more talent back than the Trail Blazers

Jamie Hudson
NBC Sports Northwest

It's probably fair to say that several NBA teams will return to play with players on their roster feeling closer to a 100 percent and free of aches and pains, or at least be pretty well rested. But, then again, how rusty and out of game-shape will they be?

For the Portland Trail Blazers, ‘needing to get healthy' has almost felt like their mantra this season.

It's been over a year since big man Jusuf Nurkic suffered a compound fracture to his left tibia and fibula in a home game against the Brooklyn Nets on Mar. 25, 2019.

And now it's been exactly three months since Nurk was aiming to make his return while targeting March 15th as his debut game before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season just four days before Nurk's anticipated return. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.]

Plus, we've heard Zach Collins is now ready to return to the court following his rehab on his left shoulder.

With those two back in the fold, the Blazers are nearly as close to 100 percent as they can be, minus Rodney Hood as he continues to rehab his a torn left Achilles tendon that he suffered back in early Dec.

Now that a proposed plan is in place to resume the 2019-20 season inside of the Disney World ‘bubble,' both Nurkic and Collins will have an opportunity to take the court.

And that's something other teams won't have – two healthy big men who were out for a good majority of the season.

Just ask Trail Blazers beat reporter Casey Holdahl, who is confident that the Blazers will be in a good spot once the season resumes.

While every team is going to be healthier than they were or most likely healthier, every team's going to be more rested than they were. I can't think of a team that's going to be getting as much talent back as a team as the Trail Blazers are. I think there are probably some teams that are pretty close, and obviously, you know, if the Nets were going to get Kevin Durant back that's a different discussion. -- Trail Blazers beat reporter Casey Holdahl said on Trail Blazers Courtside

The Bosnian Beast's return will certainly give Portland a much-needed boost. With Nurkic in the lineup in 2018-19, the Trail Blazers went 45-27. During that time he was averaging 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 blocks.

Holdahl added that even if Nurk and Collins don't hit the ground running, "you go from really being thin personnel wise to at least having options that you didn't have before, which I think puts them in a great scenario."

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Now that Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has had plenty of time to review film and reflect on the 2019-20 season during this NBA hiatus, he is certainly eager to get his defensive anchors back in the rotation. 

This season, there was and still is plenty of room for improvement on the defensive end. The Trail Blazers ranked 27th in defensive rating this season (113.6) and gave up an average of 115.2 points per game, ranking them 26th in the league.

Portland's coaching staff has been focusing on the dynamic of Nurk and Collins playing alongside each other.

"If we're playing two seven footers together, can we be more aggressive on the ball and know that we have more help behind us, can we maybe switch more knowing that if we do get beat off the dribble that there's somebody behind us to help?" Stotts said.

"The challenge is when; if one of them is guarding a three-point-shooter in the corner, how much do we help out of the corner. You remember the game at Phoenix where Aron Baynes hit some shots, so do we concede maybe a few threes and protect the paint, protect the rim a little bit better since that's our defensive strength? So, we've talked about how we can be better defensively."

Getting a healthy Nurk and Collins back is definitely a good start to being better defensively. 

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A healthy Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins -- No one gets more talent back than the Trail Blazers originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

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