The NBA trade deadline is one week away and the Portland Trail Blazers are expected to re-tool their roster via the trade market. In the ever-circling rumor mill, forward Robert Covington and center Jusuf Nurkic continue to generate buzz as Portland’s most likely trade candidates. According to a recent piece from The Athletic, whether Portland moves the pair could come down to a key contract stipulation.
In The Athletic’s trade deadline big board — which assesses players by factors such as a players’ likely impact after being traded, the likelihood of a trade occurring, and asset value — Covington and Nurkic were ranked No. 19 and No. 20 respectively. Since both players will be unrestricted free agents this summer, The Athletic said the attraction of Bird Rights may determine their market worth.
A key question that will shape the Blazers’ asset return is whether potential trade partners are motivated to get Robert Covington, and/or Jusuf Nurkic’s Bird rights, which will allow them to retain those free agents without requiring cap space or a different exception. Considering only four teams project to wield cap space and a significant group will be over the cap but well under the tax, there may be fertile ground for an agreement.
If the Blazers don’t trade Covington and Nurkic, the players can walk at the end of the season. This hurts Portland’s leverage in trade talks. Still, The Athletic said there are few reasons why Portland would want to hold onto its front court pair. The reasons aren’t that persuasive considering Portland’s 21-31 record.
As such, the only reasons Joe Cronin should hold on to them are wanting to be better for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign or offers so weak he thinks he can do better via sign-and-trade in the offseason, which is typically difficult for non-star unrestricted free agents.
The trade deadline is now one week away, coming on February 10th.