In the midst of the Portland Trail Blazers trying to trade star point guard Damian Lillard, center Jusuf Nurkic’s name is surfacing in trade rumors as a likely candidate to also be dealt in the near future — whether as piece in the Lillard mega-trade or a subsequent move as the team looks to turn the page toward the future.
In the latest write-up of league-wide trade ideas from Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey, among a gauntlet of Lillard trade proposals for multiple teams, Bailey snuck a Nurkic trade into the mix. In the proposal, Bailey moves Nurkic to the Oklahoma City Thunder for forward Davis Bertans and a pair of future second-round picks, saying that’s the best the market has to offer for the 29-year-old, 6-foot-11 center.
For Portland, this would just be one small part of the restart. The Blazers aren’t likely to do much better than two seconds and a contract that expires one year earlier than Nurkić’s (which is up after 2025-26).
Recent reports have suggested Nurkic could be traded to the Phoenix Suns in a center swap for Deandre Ayton as part of a multi-team trade package in the Lillard transaction. Those reports are a lot more optimistic than this deal that’s nothing more than a glorified salary dump — one that won’t kick in until the end of the 2024-25 season.
Nurkic is set to make approximately $54 million over the next three seasons, while Bertans, 30, is slated to make $33 million over the next two.
Bertans has earned a reputation as one of the better sharpshooters in the league and was a solid contributor to the Dallas Mavericks’ 2022 run to the Western Conference Finals, but Bailey admits Bertans “likely won’t play much” for the Thunder. While the Blazers finished No. 14 in three-point percentage last year, their outside shooting was far from the straw that broke the camel’s back in a losing season.
Bringing in two second-round picks would allow Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin to accrue more young talent in a potential re-tool and save roughly $21 million in salary. However, without bringing in a viable starting center in the deal or from somewhere else, a considerable hole would be left in the Blazers’ rotation, something not ideal for the development of Portland’s young core.
Nurkic has given Rip City near double-double production for much of his tenure with the franchise and his 0.8 threes per contest was a career-high for the Bosnian center at a 36.1% clip. Keeping his $19.3 million on the books in 2025-26 would pay more dividends for the Blazers than this potential deal.
What management decides to do with Lillard will likely determine their course of action, but at face value, Portland may be able to bring in more for Nurkic in the event that they opt to move him.
As a thought exercise at the very least, Bailey’s suggestion brings up an interesting debate surrounding Nurkic’s value. What do you think, Rip City? Is Bailey’s gauge on the market badly ill-informed, or does Nurkic’s guaranteed $54 million contract over the next three seasons make a deal of this caliber the likely return?