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Blazers, Nurkic Both Benefited from Free Agent Deal

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Ben Golliver of SI.com writes that both sides needed each other.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers and Jusuf Nurkic needed each other, contributing to mutual agreement on a 4-year, $48 million deal to end Nurkic’s free agency and return him to a Portland uniform. SI.com’s Ben Golliver makes that claim in an article grading the move, which he gives a B+ after extensive explanation.

Golliver describes the environment in which the deal was struck:

Olshey needed to keep his best big man to placate All-NBA guard Damian Lillard and avoid backsliding following a surprising run to the West’s No. 3 seed. Nurkic needed the first major payday of his career during a summer in which money has been tight and traditional centers have failed to generate much interest.

He indicates that the final results “threaded the needle” for both sides.

The final terms represent a bit of a face-saving compromise. Nurkic now stands as Portland’s highest-paid big man, a key superlative given [center Meyers] Leonard’s large contract and small role. He also received more total compensation than Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, the player he was traded for in 2017.

Golliver cites Portland’s cap situation coming into play.

[Olshey] was so capped out and lacking in trade assets that he had no method for finding a comparable replacement for Nurkic.

He also posits that Neil Olshey’s reputation played a role in the process.

There’s a public relations element at play too. The Blazers’ disastrous 2016 summer has cost them Crabbe, Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis and other pieces, as Olshey has been forced to maneuver around his self-inflicted cap crunch. Losing Nurkic, who emerged as an unexpected gem after a rough start to his career in Denver, would have been a body blow for a fan base that’s become increasingly tired of taking one step forward and then one step back. Keeping him counts as a tidy piece of business.

The article contains much more and is well worth a look.