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Should the Blazers Welcome Back Jusuf Nurkic?

The center is an unrestricted free agent. Should Portland make an offer?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-22 season has come to an end. The summer ahead will hold plenty of decisions for the club. They put 27 difference players on the court during the regular season. Not all are still with the team, but enough are that there’s no way the Blazers could retain them all...if they even wanted to. A 27-55 record would argue against a high retention rate, but asterisks abound despite the dismal performance.

Into this question-filled swamp stride Dave Deckard and Dia Miller with their annual review of Portland’s roster. They talk about each player, then decide whether they would keep or yeet (toss) the player in the coming year. Performance, fit, age, salary, and team priorities/direction are all open for discussion.

Today we tackle another starter, center Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian Beast averaged 15.0 points on 53.5% shooting from the field this year, with a career-high 11.1 rebounds. He played 28.2 minutes per game in 56 appearances before exiting the season with plantar fasciitis. Nurkic’s contract with the team has concluded, but the Blazers are in position to re-sign him. Should they welcome him back with open arms or let him find a new home?

Dia: Nurk is a wild card for me. Last season when we started this series, I yeeted (is that a word?) Nurk. The primary reason being that in the team’s exit interviews, Nurk made It clear he wasn’t sure Portland was where he wanted to be. I’m strongly of the belief that If a player makes It known he doesn’t want to be somewhere, then he’s probably better off not being there. So those comments from Nurk really swayed my feelings on keeping him or not and ultimately I felt like if he didn’t want to be there, they should move him. Flash forward to this season and I feel like there’s been a shift. I’m not sure if it’s his allegiance to Dame, or the changes the team has made, but Nurkic appears to be where he wants to be. That combined with the fact that he can be such a difference maker and create such an impact on this team when he’s healthy brings me to keeping him.

Dave: I’ve done a switcheroo on Nurkic too, but for different reasons. When the Blazers looked like they were angling towards cap space and a possible rebuild, Nurkic’s unrestricted free agency status put him in a grey area. They were probably going to keep him anyway, because...center. But his contract slot was open, potentially, for fishing around on the free agency market.

With the organization signalling that they’re keeping Anfernee Simons at any cost, retaining Josh Hart alongside, that potential cap space is disappearing. It’s making less and less sense to dump players just to generate money. Instead they need mostly-reasonable contracts to enable further trades down the road. They also need a center still, by the way. Both of those things point to retaining Nurkic.

I have mixed feelings about whether he’s the future of the starting lineup here, but he’s a good player at a time when Portland needs same.

Do you see him as the long-term answer?

Dia: I’m not sure I can answer that yet. I think there’s a lot riding on this upcoming season. Obviously the season we just finished was a bust and Nurk ended It sitting out. I think he can be a long term answer but I think It depends largely on what direction they go with bringing in players. Nurk and Dame together have been magic in the past. I think potentially they could be again. Nurk is a talented center and I think he could be a long term solution, but I also think we need a solid backup, and pieces around him.

Dave: I’m just not sold on the experiment. After six years, there’s still too much murky middle ground with Nurk. BUT...I’ll join you in keeping him for now, because of the contract/cap issue and because there aren’t a ton of better options unless the Blazers can find a way to make a run at Deandre Ayton.

Verdicts So Far

Anfernee Simons: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Jusuf Nurkic: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep