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Should the Blazers Move to Re-Sign Jusuf Nurkic?

Portland’s center has been up and down. Are Nurk and the Blazers a long-term match?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers have an interesting trade and free agency period ahead in the summer of 2021. They’ll need to make several decisions regarding their current roster, including how much they value nearly every member thereof.

In preparation for the big summer, Dave Deckard and Dia Miller of the Dave and Dia Podcast are asking each other — and you — whether to “Keep or Yeet” each member of the team.

The concept is pretty much like it sounds. Take one Blazers player. Do you keep him around for next season or show him the door?

Today we look at center Jusuf Nurkic. From “Nurk Fever” to fibula fractures, defensive daring to frustrating finishes, Portland’s center has had an eventful five-and-a-half year run with the team. Should that continue or is it time to go in another direction?

We hasten to point out that voting “Yeet” (colloquially: to toss away with authority, somewhat gleefully) does not mean that Dave and Dia dislike the player, think the player has no talent, or regret the player being a Blazer. There can be a thousand reasons to yeet your resident shooting guard, only some of which have to do with him.

Similarly, voting “Keep” does not indicate that Dave and Dia think the player is perfect, just that the reasons for keeping him outweigh the reasons for letting him go.

Jusuf Nurkic: Keep or Yeet?

Dia: If you would have asked me this half way through the season, my answer would be different than it is now. Throughout the season we talked about how Nurkic was a difference-maker, and the team essentially won or loss at his hand. The idea of trading him wasn’t really on my radar. That being said, he’s made some comments since then that make me wonder if he still wants to be in Portland—one of those being at the end of the season when he talked about the fact that he wasn’t sure this was the right situation for him. I tend to think that if he’s feeling that way as things stand, then maybe it’s time to let him go.

Dave: To quote the OLD version of Dia Miller, “This is so hard!” It’s nearly incomprehensible to think of the Blazers trading Nurkic and ending up ahead. They don’t have a center waiting in the wings to take his spot. (Sorry, Enes Kanter.) They don’t have draft picks to get a new one. And why would someone trade a better center for Nurkic straight up? Plus he occupied so much space in Terry Stotts’ schemes, from center-court ball-passer to defensive Swiss Army Knife to pick-setter extraordinaire. I’m guessing Nurkic wishes he had more touches and shots, but spiritually, he’s played the “glue” role on this team for much of the time he’s been healthy.

On the other hand, he’s on the last year of his contract, making $12 million. He’s going to want more. The Blazers might not be in a good position to offer him more, or even know if they should. It depends on his health, his quality of play under a new coach, and whether their roster will continue mostly intact, making him valuable in a huge supporting-role position.

Ugh. Help me, Dia!

Dia: you make a solid point. Truthfully, this is why the Blazers are where they are right now. We can talk about who to trade and who to keep in theory all day long. But when it comes down to the question “what can we get for this player that will serve our team better?” that’s a tough place for the organization right now because we don’t have much to package. We have traded away our picks, we have tied up a lot of money in a few big contracts, and here we are—facing the problem of what even are our options? Looking at it from that perspective—a realistic perspective— Nurk is probably a keep. For exactly the reasons you stated. We really aren’t going to get better for him. He’s done well in his position. So hopefully, he can turn it around and decide to come back and play strong for us.

Dave: But now here comes the crosswind again. We already mentioned his short, low contract. He’s going to want his next one to be bigger. The only thing that could possibly get in the way of his demands would be another injury, in which case he’d almost surely have to play under a short-term deal to prove he could stay healthy.

Are the Blazers going to be willing to hitch their wagon to him for the next few years at a more expensive price? Obviously they could still trade him in that span, but you don’t usually give a guy a four-year deal with the idea you’re going to move him after one. If Portland re-ups him, they value him. But should they? And for how much? And for how long?

Look at all the question marks surrounding Nurkic. He’s been injured for most of the past two years. When he came back at the beginning of the season, he wasn’t anywhere near his peak performance level. He did round into form at the end of the year and the Blazers looked good, but the window between their winning streak and playoffs demise was short. Is that enough from Nurk to bet your future on?

I’m not sure I can argue one way or the other on that question. The point is, we don’t know. And if we don’t know, do they? They’re going to have to answer this gray-area question quickly with incomplete information. That’s a thorny issue.

This may lead more towards yeeting Nurkic to avoid having to commit, providing the right deal is out there. But will other teams be able to assess and value him any better than the Blazers do? Also...what can they get? They can’t go backwards unless they’re rebuilding. And if they’re rebuilding, they can say goodbye to Damian Lillard along with Nurkic.

Look...I can’t handle this stress. I’m going to go with “yeet” just to avoid it. The Blazers might be able to bolster their other four positions with a Nurkic deal or swing a star for Nurk and CJ. Then they can rent a center and run a system that doesn’t swing around the five position as much as their old one did. It’s not a great solution, but it’s what I’ve got.

Nurk is definitely underpaid for what he can bring to the lineup this year, and that usually makes for a “keep”. It’s the time beyond that’s got me worried. So yeah...for the first time since he came, I’d say “yeet”.

Dia: Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer—and this is why I’m so glad this isn’t my job. I think this comes down to what would this trade look like. What are the details? I’m not sure with this kind of vague details I can answer this. But for the sake of this article, I’m going with my gut and my initial reaction of yeet (I’m too old for this word, Dave). But I think this has a big fat asterisk on it. It’s definitely not a clear decision.

So there you have it. At least in the abstract, Dave AND Dia are willing to yeet the Bosnian Beast. How about you, Blazer’s Edge readers? Let us know where your heart lies in the comments below.

The Tally So Far...

CJ McCollum— Dave and Dia “yeet”

Norman Powell— Dave and Dia “keep”

Robert Covington— Dave and Dia “keep”

Jusuf Nurkic— Dave and Dia “yeet”

Tune in next week to see if the dynamic duo will disagree on a player!