Word on the NBA streets is that the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets are making a trade.
Mason Plumlee (11.1 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 28.1 minutes)
A 2018 Second Round Draft Pick
Jusuf Nurkic (8.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 17.9 minutes)
A 2017 First Round Pick (Via Memphis, top 5 protected)
It was only a matter of time before the Nuggets traded Nurkic. After beginning the season with him starting alongside Nikola Jokic, they finally realized that the two don’t fit well together, and that between them, Jokic is clearly the one to keep. The only question is where he would go, and it’s up to Portland, along with a first round pick the Nuggets had from Memphis.
Portland now has three first round picks in the upcoming draft, which is supposed to be a very talented one. That’ll help soften the blow this offseason as they recover from what’s been a disappointing season. Also, it’s a pretty good haul for their starting center, especially if Nurkic flourishes with an increased role.
One of the Nuggets biggest issues all season long has been that they have too many big men. With Nurkic, Jokic and Kenneth Faried all talented players, Denver struggled to get them all real minutes with their glut of forwards. With Plumlee, they’ve got another big man to find minutes for. He’s amongst the most talented passing big men in the league, so, perhaps he can fit in better alongside Jokic, should they decide to try and start him alongside their new franchise cornerstone. The Nuggets still might have too many players. Plumlee joins a rotation that needs to find minutes for Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Who’s going to be the starting Power Forward? They could go small and stretch the floor with Gallinari (0nce he returns from an ankle injury, of course), or go big with Plumlee and his passing. There’s really no telling what they’ll go with, as they’ve been tinkering with their lineup all season long, but they need to figure it out soon, as they’re holding onto that last Playoff spot in the West.
In Nurkic, Portland has the chance to provide more of an opportunity to an intriguing young player, and he should be able to fit in their lineup better than he did in Denver, as there’s less center competition. This could be a great trade for the Blazers, especially if Nurkic turns out to be the solid player that many believe he is. They also get an extra first round pick out of it. Nurkic should have a chance to thrive with a more defined role, and he’s under a cheap contract next year, a plus for Portland, who is facing a big luxury tax bill and were facing the prospect of having to resign Plumlee this offseason.
This is a trade that could end up working out well for both teams. It could solidify Denver’s lineup, and Portland’s got a young, potentially great center to replace Plumlee, their starter. It’s interesting they made this trade with each other, since they’re duking it out for the final Playoff spot in the West. Right this second, Denver (24-30) has a one game lead over Portland (23-31). By the end of this season, this trade should have a clear winner, and their reward will be a first round slaughtering at the hand of the Golden State Warriors.