Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is forecasting a grim future for the current lineup should the Blazers’ stated plan of building a contender around star guard Damian Lillard go astray this summer. Early this morning, Lillard made comments to Showtime Sports indicating a preference for the Miami Heat or Brooklyn Nets should a trade from Portland become necessary. Soon after, former teammate CJ McCollum guested on ESPN, confirming that the Heat and Nets would be suitable destinations and that Lillard trade talk might have a bit of extra urgency at this juncture.
Following McCollum’s comments, a Twitter follower asked Nurkic to respond with his thoughts about Lillard’s potential departure and McCollum’s take. Nurkic responded simply: “We’re all getting traded if Blazers not deliver. Lol”
Nurkic inserted a shrug emoji after the first sentence.
We all getting traded if Blazers not deliver. ♂️ Lol https://t.co/0NBGyHDYnt— Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) June 7, 2023
Presumably “not deliver” would entail not following up on the promise to improve the team with veteran help. The Blazers own the third pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It’s becoming increasingly likely that highly-regarded point guard Scoot Henderson will be available at that position. If that happens, Portland will face a tough choice between moving the pick and amping up the youth movement that started with last year’s lottery selection Shaedon Sharpe and continued through the 2023 NBA trade deadline, when the Blazers picked up a double handful of young players. This would bring the friction between an aging Lillard and the rebuilding franchise to a head.
If the Blazers go the latter route, Nurkic apparently expects that he will be dealt in parallel with Lillard. It’s unclear who else “all” would refer to in the tweet, as Sharpe, 20-point scoring guard Anfernee Simons, and most of the rest of Portland’s lineup all sit under 25 years of age. Forward Jerami Grant is 29, but he’s also an unrestricted free agent. It’s unlikely the Blazers would simply release him. If he re-signs with the club, he’d not be eligible for trade for the first half of the season.