It appears that the Trail Blazers aren’t the only ones benefiting from the midseason deal that brought Jusuf Nurkic over from the Nuggets. While “Nurkic Fever” is still grabbing headlines, Mason Plumlee is in the midst of a revival of his own. Ryan Blackburn from our friends at Denver Stiffs has highlighted the statistical impact that the former Blazers center is having on his new surroundings.
It is no secret that Nikola Jokic is the driving force behind Denver’s surprising playoff-push, and finding a player that complements his playing style in the frontcourt has been an ongoing experiment that the Nuggets have had trouble perfecting. The sample size is small, but Blackburn points out the +11.6 net rating that Plumlee and Jokic have when they occupy the court at the same time. This is a massive improvement from the failed Nurkic/Jokic combination that garnered a nasty -15.6 net rating.
Perhaps the biggest impact Plumlee has made since arriving in Denver is his ability to stymie the drop-off that occurs when Jokic receives a breather. Blackburn details what is occurring when Denver’s best player heads to the bench.
The drop off when Nikola Jokic goes to the bench still exists, but it is far less drastic. Plumlee has done a great job of filling in for Jokic, and while the bench has had some identity issues of late, they are much more to do with the guards finding themselves rather than Plumlee struggling. The big man has accumulated 9.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in just 24.3 minutes per game. With multiple high assist outings in his time here, teammates are starting to adjust to Plumlee’s game, one that will help the Nuggets while Jokic is off the floor.
Plumlee’s symbiotic relationship with Jokic isn’t the only thing that has raised eyebrows in Denver, as Blackburn points out the differences between Nurkic and his successor.
Nurkic is a talented passer, as he has shown with the Blazers, but his mentality was never one of a pass-first guy. His first instinct is to score, and that’s one of the aspects that made him the Bosnian Beast. That being said, the fit with Plumlee in Denver has turned the Nuggets into a very competent basketball team.
While Plumlee has added to Denver’s net rating, style, and win total; Blackburn is hesitant to give the new-addition all of the credit.
Denver is simply playing better since the deal. With wins over teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, along with three road victories in a row, the Nuggets are simply coming to play more frequently than they were before the trade. Going 8-5 and having a Net Rating higher than +5.0 would put Denver in the upper echelon of NBA teams. Maybe not Golden State and San Antonio, but the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics are very similar.
It is rare for trades in the NBA to truly benefit each party, but it appears that both Denver and Portland are moving in the right direction in the month following the deal.