The Portland Trail Blazers have an important NBA Free Agency period approaching with several free agents, including starting center Jusuf Nurkic, possibly hitting the market and looking to cash in. Besides Nurkic, role players Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, and Pat Connaughton just finished the last season of their contracts, with Napier and Connaughton likely becoming restricted free agents. A team with cap space might make signing a player in a position of need their free-agency priority, but Portland isn’t so lucky.
Given this, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report makes re-signing Nurkic the team’s Plan A:
Full-season Nurkic never found the spark half-season Nurkic provided down the stretch in 2016-17. This year’s version was still nominally Portland’s third option, but he lacked the consistency that role implies. He also struggled defending in space in a way that made you think it might always be a challenge.
And still, the 7-footer looks like a keeper if for no other reason than the lack of viable alternatives.
But he knows that could change with a curveball this summer:
Two things could strip away Nurkic’s keeper status. The first would be an exorbitant offer sheet from someone else. The second would be a franchise-resetting trade of either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. But neither seems likely. The center market is congested, and Nurkic did nothing to bolster his stock. And any trade talk regarding Lillard or McCollum stems from speculation only.
Buckley’s Plan B is focused on re-signing Davis, who fits the team’s needs off the bench:
Portland can’t afford to keep all of its free agents this summer, but it should squeeze out a contract slot for Davis.
His no-frills, glue-guy game is perfect not only for his energetic reserve role, but also to complement the more flashy styles of Lillard and McCollum. Davis’ value doesn’t always show through statistics, but he devours rebounds, stays within himself on offense and maximizes his blend of length, athleticism and hustle. Lillard is also a big Davis fan, which could hold weight with the front office.
And Buckley’s Plan C prioritizes Pat Connaughton over Shabazz Napier:
And while Connaughton hasn’t shown as much as fellow free agent Shabazz Napier, Connaughton is the better free-agency option for a couple reasons.
Price is the biggest one. Napier did enough this season to warrant a decent payday, and the Blazers can’t sign off on much with $53.7 million of next year’s payroll already earmarked for Lillard and McCollum. Position is the other factor, since it’s easier to move the 6’5” Connaughton around the perimeter while the 6’1” Napier is locked at point guard.
Wade Baldwin IV seems to have a lot of trust, so that too might make Napier expendable.
What do you think? Nurkic as Plan A? Davis as Plan B? Prioritize Connaughton over Napier? Let us know in the comments.