Blazers trade for much-needed post presence

Feb. 23 is fast approaching and with it, the NBA trade deadline.

The Portland Trail Blazers made their first move of the season Feb. 12 by acquiring center Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick from the Denver Nuggets, for center Mason Plumlee, a second-round pick, and some extra cash.

The Blazers upset a lot of fans by trading away Plumlee, but the question is, do those fans want to win or stay on this losing skid? By the numbers, it’s very easy to see that Nurkic is the better player of the two. Plumlee and Nurkic have both been in the league for three years and they are averaging similar numbers, except Nurkic brings a certain physical presence to the floor that Plumlee doesn’t. Nurkic is averaging eight points and six rebounds per game, in 18 minutes. Plumlee is averaging 11 points and eight rebounds, in about 28 minutes a game.

Nurkic is very physical and isn’t afraid to be a powerhouse in the post, taking over the paint with strong moves while backing down defenders with ease. Plumlee, on the other hand, is a center who has no touch, no scoring ability, and isn’t a great rebounder, as he tends to shy away from contact. Nurkic will protect the rim with his 7 foot, 2 inch stature and 280 solid pounds.

Portland fans may point out that Plumlee was a great teammate and worked hard, but, unfortunately, at the end of the day, it’s about performance and winning. He also is said to be a great passing center, and has been known to be a great ball handler, which is another part of why those fans are frustrated and feel like the Blazers are making a bad move. But, stats-wise he just doesn’t bring the rebounding capability that they need.

They can talk about what a great passer he is, but Plumlee still has only averaged two assists per game in his career – though he is averaging four this season.

Now, Nurkic’s numbers may not shout superstar, but he is still very young and could most definitely improve his game play and performance within the next couple years.

Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey spoke out about the recent trade, and his thinking.

“We are pleased to add a young center with Jusuf’s talent and potential to our roster and excited by the prospect of three first-round picks in the 2017 NBA draft,” Olshey said. He also said the Blazers “want to thank Mason for his many contributions to the organization these past two seasons. His presence will be missed and we wish him all the best for the future.”

As of now, The Blazers have three first-round picks in this year’s draft. Having three picks seems promising and one might think it will help improve the team tremendously, but as all Blazer fans know, drafting players hasn’t always been Portland’s greatest trait. For instance, drafting Sam Bowie in 1984 over Michael Jordan, now widely considered the greatest player of all time. Or drafting Martell Webster in 2004, over Chris Paul. And don’t forget one of the biggest NBA busts of all time in 2007 – drafting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.

So, the front office in Portland is hoping that making a move to get a young big man down in the post won’t yet again come back to haunt them.

There are also rumors the Blazers may be looking to add another big man by trading away one, or even two, of their first-round picks and possibly a key role player. One name that has been circulated a lot recently is 76ers center Jahlil Okafor, who’s known for his scoring. In theory, Okafor and Nurkic could make a great combo: Nurkic for his defense, and Okafor for his offense.

Meantime, Blazers fans, keep your eyes and ears open until the trade deadline passes.

Jusif Nurkic scored 13 points, on five of five shooting, and pulled down seven rebounds in his Blazers debut against the Utah Jazz Wednesday night.

Jusuf Nurkic scored 13 points, on five of five shooting, and pulled down seven rebounds in his Blazers debut against the Utah Jazz Wednesday night. Web photo.

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