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Nurkic, Simons, Among Hollinger’s Top Free Agents to Watch

Using his BORD$ metric, John Hollinger of The Athletic projected what the Blazers could do with their unrestricted free agent talent this summer.

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Atlanta Hawks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

As the NBA pivots closer and closer towards the 2022-23 offseason, one question is sure to prevail across all 32 organizations: what must be done to get better? This year’s free agency class — though not as star-studded as in years past — will provide that chance. As John Hollinger of The Athletic considers in his annual BORD$ projections, the Portland Trail Blazers will be tasked with answering that question, with multiple players from the team cracking his Top 25 free agents (subscription required).

Hollinger’s BORD$ model, as he notes, rates players relative to replacement level, accounts for age, and projects minutes played, in this case, for the 2022-23 NBA season. For those more interested in his metric, he provides an in-depth explanation here.

Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is Hollinger’s No. 12-ranked free agent. Hollinger offers this thought on how the Blazers should approach the unrestricted free agent this summer:

In theory, there are cap-room scenarios where the Blazers let Nurkic walk to have the space to chase other players. In reality, Portland’s best play by far would be to re-sign Nurkic at a number in the mid-teens and use its other cap options (including a huge trade exception) to rebuild the team this offseason.

He projected that Nurkic, who tallied in 15.0 points per game and career-bests in rebounds (11.1) and field goal percentage (53.5), could be the topic of a potential bidding war, which would leave the Blazers to decide how high is too high for their 6-foot-11 big.

Hollinger also mentioned Josh Hart during a “special interlude” of players who wouldn’t be free agents, but in theory, could be on the market. His assessment of Hart read as follows:

Josh Hart, SG, Portland: $16,485,487 — Hart’s $12 million deal for 2022-23 is non-guaranteed, and Portland does have some cap-room scenarios if it lets him go, but even in that scenario, it is much more likely he is traded rather than actually released. (He’d also be fairly likely to be claimed on waivers even if he were cut.)

Anfernee Simons checked in at No. 23 on the list, something that could create a bit of dialogue. Hollinger’s rationale was that Simons’ limitations as a passer and defender held his standing down. In the same realm, he projected that the Blazers would pay Simons well beyond the BORD$ value projection, which was roughly $11.5 million.

Outside of those three, Joe Ingles, who has yet to play a game for the Blazers, made an appearance among the injured players in Hollinger’s model. His analysis focused on the soon-to-be-35-year-old’s recovery from his torn ACL, and what that could mean going forward.