A Portland Trail Blazers trade took place over the weekend that has many NBA fans debating its merits. Dealing a big man for a draft pick makes an obvious statement, though, that the front office is resigned to working toward the 2017-18 NBA season. What may be a painful bit of news for Blazers fans is that the trade helps improve a competitor for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference this year.
A report by NBA.com broke down all the particulars in the trade between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets. The Blazers sent center Mason Plumlee to the Nuggets in exchange for center Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. That pick belonged to the Memphis Grizzlies originally but now resides with the Blazers. To complete the deal, the Blazers sent back a second-round pick from the 2018 NBA Draft.
This is an NBA trade that clearly sacrifices something for the Blazers this season to stand a better chance at competing next year. It’s not a trade that has gone over very well with Blazers fans, though, as many have taken to social media to express their disdain about the news. That wasn’t limited to fans, either, as starting point guard Damian Lillard was also shocked by the deal.
A report by the Oregonian expressed the sentiments of Lillard when he found out that one of his friends got traded.
“It’s a tough one, man. Mase was one of our guys; like a brother to me. I have a great bond with Mase, on and off the floor. It’s sucked to see him go… and we’re definitely going to miss him. I was very surprised. I figured if it was going to happen with anybody, it wouldn’t be Mase, just because he meant that much to our team and did so many things for our team on the floor.”
So what does this Portland Trail Blazers trade mean? First off, it means that the Denver Nuggets just got better in a pursuit of a No. 8 seed in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. The Nuggets (24-30) are just one game ahead of the Blazers (23-31) in that race and one-and-a-half games ahead of the Sacramento Kings (23-32). Getting Mason Plumlee may not only give the team a push in the second half, but it also frees up salary for the 2017-18 NBA season.
Plumlee is in the final season of his current deal and will become a restricted free agent during the NBA offseason. That likely would have made him too expensive for the Blazers to re-sign, as the franchise already has the second highest payroll in the entire league. Jusuf Nurkic will make around $3 million next season, before becoming a restricted free agent himself. This puts the new payroll for the Blazers north of $134 million next year.
In 54 games this season (all starts), Mason Plumlee averaged 28.1 minutes, 11.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. That followed a season where he started all 82 games for the Blazers, showing how entrenched he had become with the player rotation. Now Blazers coach Terry Stotts will have to look elsewhere to fill those minutes each night.
Jusuf Nurkic has been a role player for the Denver Nuggets, but he had started 29 games for the team this season. In 45 total games, Nurkic averaged 17.9 minutes, 8.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. It’s unclear how Stotts will use the 22-year-old big man, but it does give the Blazers another infusion of youth.
This is the second first-round pick that the Blazers have acquired this season for the 2017 NBA Draft. A report by the Oregonian presented details on the previous transaction, where the Blazers gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a 2018 pick in exchange for their 2017 first-round selection. With the latest trade, the Blazers now control their own pick, that of the Cavaliers, and now the one previously held by the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Blazers are back in action on Monday night (Feb. 13), with very little time to recover from the news of the trade. Moda Center will play host to the game at 7:30 p.m. PT. Many fans are still trying to recover from when Nicolas Batum got traded to the Charlotte Hornets for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh in 2015. Now another fan-favorite has been sent packing, so the mood of the Portland Trail Blazers fans should be interesting to see against the Atlanta Hawks.
[Featured Image by Steve Dykes/Getty Images]