While Jusuf Nurkic’s time in Portland has been nothing short of extraordinary, it’s easy to forget that his time in Denver ended on sour terms. Upset over losing playing time to emerging star Nikola Jokic, the Bosnian Beast was labeled something of a malcontent upon his arrival in Portland. That being said, Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was rather complimentary of the big man during his interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the latest Woj Pod.
Around the 44-minute mark, Wojnarowski pointed out that the trade between the Nuggets and Trail Blazers last February, in which Portland received Nurkic and a first-round pick for Mason Plumlee, a future second-rounder, and cash considerations, was done for purely basketball reasons—a rarity in today’s salary cap-centric landscape.
On the trade, Connelly reflected:
“We had well publicized issues as Nikola started taking off. Juka was a great kid—had, um—was struggling with his new role. It was no secret, league-wide. We were—we thought a guy like Mason, with his ability to play with or without Nikola, with his physicality, with his team-first approach might be a good fit. Certainly it’s been fantastic for Juka to have that starting opportunity, he played great. I don’t think anyone ever questioned Juka’s talent or skill set and we’re extremely happy to have Mason.”
He also mentioned that while Nurkic could have handled things differently, and was a bit immature at times, a change of scenery was the best option for all parties.
Nurkic averaged just shy of 30 minutes per game in 20 games (19 starts) for the Blazers last season, after averaging just under 18 minutes in 45 games (29 starts) for the Nuggets. His scoring average increased by over seven points and he attempted nearly double the amount of field goals per game after the trade.