The Portland Trail Blazers were aggressive during the 2016 offseason but once the season started to slip away you could begin to see the beads of sweat form on the fans, front office, and players faces. They knew a few moves needed to be made but who would be the first to go? Well, Sunday the Blazers sent Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic.
The trade may have come from a financial standpoint as Plumlee would be a free agent at the end of the season. While the moves make sense when looking at it from that standpoint it sets the Blazers back a few unless they can somehow make another deal for a big man who can actually play. Not taking anything away from Nurkic but he’s not Plumlee. The Blazers are a versatile team and while they were in desperate need a quality force in the paint, Nurkic will slow the team down.
Plumlee was the Blazers best post player. His defense was not leading the NBA but he was by far the best post defender. When on the break, either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum could look for Plumlee trailing or slashing through the lane for an alley-oop. This will not happen with the slow-footed Nurkic. But, the Blazers had to know this heading into the deal. It was salary cap related and nothing more.
The Blazers are still fighting for a playoff spot and as fate would have it, it’s the Nuggets they’re chasing.
This move poses a bigger question as to what’s next? Will the Blazers be content with their new big or will they look to make another move for a player like Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers? The frontcourt could still use some offensive firepower as Nurkic has only averaged eight point and six rebounds compared to 11 points and eight rebounds for Plumlee this season. The numbers are not that far off but when you begin to add in chemistry to a team that’s looking to find its way, it may be a bit of a step back.
The move saved the Blazers the hassle of paying Plumlee a ton of money next season as he was headed towards a big payday. Nurkic is still on his rookie deal and is four years younger than Plumlee. Talent wise the Blazers gave up plenty but money wise they made the best move possible.