Photo / Sam Forencich

National Media Weigh-In on Blazers' Swap with Nuggets

by Cody Sharrett

Almost 24 hours after rumors began swirling, the Portland Trail Blazers made it official Monday morning by announcing the acquisition of center Jusuf Nurkić and a 2017 first round pick from the Denver Nuggets. In exchange, Portland sent center Mason Plumlee, a 2018 second round pick and cash considerations to Denver. 

The 22-year-old Nurkić comes to Rip City with career averages of 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and his shooting 50% from the field this season. The draft pick acquired now gives the Blazers three selections in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Analysis of the trade has rolled in from various national media outlets, and here's what they're saying about the deal...

ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton gave the Blazers a 'B+.' While the trade changes Portland's style in the present, the move is future-focused, writes Pelton: 

"From a value standpoint, this deal is a great one for the Blazers. They get an extra year of a center on his cheap rookie contract, a crucial consideration, given that Portland was already projected to be above the luxury-tax line before considering a new contract for Plumlee. On top of that, the Blazers add another 2017 first-round pick and will almost certainly have a league-high three picks in the first round, giving them the flexibility to try to move up or merely add several low-cost contributors to fill out their bench.

At the same time, make no mistake: This deal means a huge stylistic change for a team that is a game back of the Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Plumlee's versatile skill set was a big part of Portland's offense, and Nurkic brings a very different style."

Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver graded the deal a 'C+,' noting that the exchange can't be properly evaluated until the trade deadline passes on February 23:

"The return package is modest, and probably best judged once this month’s trade deadline passes. The first-round pick from Memphis should fall around No. 20, giving Portland three first-round picks in June’s draft. However, it’s conceivable that Blazers GM Neil Olshey will need to part with draft assets to grease other trades in an effort to reduce his bloated payroll."

The Washington Post's Tim Bontemps writes that the Blazers are shifting their focus from this season to the future: 

Now Portland, in ninth place in the West, has made a trade that clearly makes it worse today and makes Denver, the team in eighth, better. It’s hard to see this as anything other than General Manager Neil Olshey deciding to cash in his chips and look to the future — specifically the 2017 NBA draft, which is considered to be flush with talent and in which he now has three first-round picks.

It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Portland continue to make deals, both in order to try and add even more future assets and to address another problem that this trade clearly is trying to address."

At CBS Sports, Ananth Pandian believes Nurkić will provide immediate help on the defensive end: 

Nurkic should definitely help the Blazers on the defensive end. He is a strong 7-footer that gives Portland some much-needed bulk at the center spot. The Blazers were hoping that Festus Ezeli would fill this type of role but he has yet to play for Portland this season because of injury.

Nurkic can also score in the low post and is a good rebounder. This season, Nurkic is averaging 8.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists in 17.9 minutes. At 22, he's also four years younger than Plumlee and has the potential to be a great center. He played quite well as a rookie but then was injured for the majority of last season.

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