Jusuf Nurkic is headed to restricted free agency with the Portland Trail Blazers, giving them the option to match any offer sheet that comes his way. That is, if one comes at all. Zach Lowe of ESPN hypothesized last week Nurkic would take his one-year qualifying offer given the lack of market for centers. That will-he-or-won’t-he scenario makes him one of the seven most interesting restricted free agents, according to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer:
Nurkic is probably the player on this list most likely to sign the one-year tender. There’s not much demand for lumbering centers who don’t have a perimeter game around the NBA, while Portland has invested heavily in Zach Collins, the no. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft, as its center of the future. The Blazers need Nurkic back to stay afloat in the Western Conference, but they probably don’t want to commit to him long term, and it’s unlikely that any other team will force their hand.
While Portland will likely want to keep their asset versus losing him for nothing, the NBA Playoffs also shined a light on Nurkic’s limitations, Tjarks recounts:
Unfortunately for Nurkic, Portland’s first-round loss to New Orleans was a textbook example of how the game has changed. The Pelicans started Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic up front, and he couldn’t defend either stretch big man on the perimeter. On the other end of the floor, they blitzed Lillard and C.J. McCollum when they came off screens and dared Nurkic to beat them in four-on-three situations. For as good as he was in the regular season, he just couldn’t keep up when the game speeded up in the postseason. It’s hard to see anyone being willing to pay him big money after seeing that.
Nurkic averaged 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game this season. NBA Free Agency starts July 1.