Report: Nuggets, Blazers agree to Nurkic-Plumlee swap

Already well-positioned with youth, talent and eventual salary-cap space, the Denver Nuggets’ situation appeared to get even brighter Sunday amid reports they had swapped center Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers for big man Mason Plumlee. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnorawski was first with the news:

Bobby Marks, Wojnorawski’s Vertical colleague, provided some context as the story unfolded:

The emergence this season of Nuggets’ big Nikola Jokic pushed Nurkic to the side. Jokic, 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, is a candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in his second season, averaging 16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists –many of them on spectacular passes — in 26.6 minutes. As a rookie, the Serbian center’s numbers were 10.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 2.4 apg in 21.7 mpg.

Nurkic, a 7-foot, 280-pounder from Bosnia, hasn’t stepped up this season, his third in Denver, raising questions about his work ethic. Statistically he has backslid somewhat, averaging just 8.0 points and 5.8 minutes while averaging 17.9 minutes and failing to build on his rookie promise of two seasons ago.

Portland, with the league’s second-highest payroll behind only Cleveland, will focus its roster enhancements on the draft now rather than free-agent shopping. The 6-foot-11 Plumlee, 26, joins his third team after spending two seasons each with Portland and Brooklyn.