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Blazers Center Jusuf Nurkic Among Best Available NBA Free Agents

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The best unrestricted free agents have already gone, but Nurkic and other restricted free agents are keeping hope alive.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Free Agency 2018 has been full of superstar signings and rumors. With the passing of the first 72 hours of the moratorium, most of the best unrestricted free agents have been snapped up. Another crop of players awaits, some of them high-caliber: the restricted free agents. Teams usually court these players later than their unrestricted brethren, as potential suitors worry about their incumbent teams matching offers. Among the restricted free agents stands Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who is now starting to make lists of “Best Free Agents Still Available”.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN lists Nurkic fifth among ten available free agents in an Insider Article (subscription required). He seems to think the Blazers hold the inside track on Nurkic.

I identified Nurkic as falling into the two categories (center and restricted free agent) most likely to get squeezed in free agency this summer, so it’s no surprise that no offer appears forthcoming for him three days in. Nurkic taking his $4.7 million qualifying offer could enable the Blazers to avoid the luxury tax entirely, but Portland still might try to work out a longer-term deal that pays Nurkic a somewhat higher annual salary.

HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina had Nurkic fifth among all centers at the start of free agency. With two pivots above him gone, he’s now third on the runway.

Colin Ward-Henniger of CBS Sports pegged Portland’s center 18th among all available free agents. 13 of those players have deals in hand, leaving Nurkic 5th on the list.

The Trail Blazers have tendered Nurkic a qualifying offer. He is free to solicit better deals on the market, which the Blazers then have the option to match in order to retain him, or he can sign the single-year deal and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.