That Portland Trail Blazer“The 2021/22 season is over. The coming summer will hold many decisions for the club. They fielded 27 different players during the regular season. Not all of them are still on the team, but so many that there’s no way the Blazers could keep them all… if they even wanted to. A 27-55 record would argue against a high retention rate, but despite the dismal performance, there are plenty of asterisks.
Into this question-filled swamp Dave Deckard and Dia Miller step with their annual review of Portland’s roster. They talk about each player and then decide whether to keep or throw (throw) the player in the coming year. Performance, suitability, age, salary, and team priorities/direction are up for discussion.
Today we’re tackling another starter, center Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian beast averaged 15.0 points on 53.5% shots from the field this year, with a career-high 11.1 rebounds. He played 28.2 minutes a game in 56 appearances before ending the season with plantar fasciitis. Nurkic’s contract with the team is complete but the Blazers are in position to re-sign him. Should they welcome him back with open arms or let him find a new home?
Day: Nurk is a joker for me. When we started this series last season, I was (is that a word?) chasing Nurk. The main reason for this was because Nurk made it clear in the team’s exit interviews that he wasn’t sure Portland was where he wanted to be. I firmly believe that if a player is showing that he doesn’t want to be anywhere, it’s better not to be there. So those comments from Nurk really affected my feelings about keeping him or not and ultimately I felt like if he didn’t want to be there they should move him. As we look forward to this season, I feel like there has been a shift. I’m not sure if it’s his allegiance to Dame or the changes the team has made, but Nurkic seems to be where he wants to be. That coupled with the fact that he can make such a difference and have such an impact on this team when he’s healthy makes me want to keep him.
David: I also did a switcheroo at Nurkic, but for different reasons. When the Blazers looked like they were fishing towards Cap Space and a possible rebuild, Nurkic’s unrestricted free agency status put him in a gray area. They’d probably keep it anyway because… in the middle. But his contract slot may have been open to fishing around in the free agency market.
As the organization signals they’re keeping Anfernee Simons at all costs and keeping Josh Hart alongside, that potential cap space is disappearing. It makes less and less sense to fire players just to make money. Instead, they usually need sensible contracts to enable further business later. By the way, you also need a center. Both point to keeping Nurkic.
I have mixed feelings about whether he’s the future of the starting lineup here, but he’s a good player at a time when Portland needs the same.
Do you see it as a long-term answer?
Day: I’m not sure I can answer that yet. I think there’s a lot going on next season. Obviously the season we just finished was a bust and Nurk finished it sitting. I think he can be a long-term answer, but I think it largely depends on which direction they go when they bring players. Nurk and Dame together have been magical in the past. I think maybe they could be again. Nurk is a talented center and I think he could be a long-term solution, but I also think we need solid support and parts around him.
David: I’m just not excited about the experiment. After six years, Nurk still has too many dark middle ground. BUT… I join you in keeping him for now because of the contract/cap issue and because there aren’t many better options unless the Blazers can find a way to attack Deandre Ayton.
Anfernee Simons: Dave-Keep, Dia-Keep
Jusuf Nurkic: Dave-Keep, Dia-Keep