The NBA trade deadline is not until Feb. 23, but that did not stop the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets from agreeing to a deal on Sunday.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news on Twitter first.
Portland sends Mason Plumlee a 2018 second round pick for Nurkic and a 2017 first-rounder (via Memphis), league sources tell @TheVertical— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 12, 2017
The deal will become official after a scheduled trade call on Monday, according to ESPN. Denver had been shopping Nurkic since January.
Per Hoops Rumors, the deal gives Portland a third first-round draft pick. Denver will send them Memphis’ first-rounder. The Blazers already had their own pick and Cleveland’s first-rounder.
Portland faced a luxury tax predicament as Plumlee was set to become a restricted free agent after the season. The Blazers were unable to work out an extension with the center.
With Nurkic, Portland gets a six-eleven center that can boost a defense which ranks 26th in the league.
Hoops Habit’s Maxwell Ogden writes that the Blazers get a physical presence on offense and an enforcer on defense.
Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway writes that the Trail Blazers will miss Plumlee’s passing and runs at the rim. Moreover, the team will have to adjust to Nurkic’s lack of lateral movement. However, Nurkic is still a quality starting center.
Nurkic is under contract for $2.9 million next season. That gives Portland more time to figure out their salary cap situation, without going into the luxury tax.
As for Denver, they have a low cap hold on Plumlee and they can match any offer when the center becomes a restricted free agent after the season. The Nuggets must retain Plumlee or they gave up a first-round pick for virtually nothing, per Bleacher Report.
Plumlee is a more versatile big to play beside Nikola Jokic. Conway writes that Plumlee’s rim-running, high-post passing and ability to stretch the floor make him a theoretical fit beside Jokic.
It also means that Portland or Denver could make more trade news by dealing any one of the other players that have been in NBA rumors.
Denver (24-30) is the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and the Blazers (23-31) are ninth. Jusuf Nurkic is averaging eight points and 5.8 rebounds for the season. Mason Plumlee is averaging 11.1 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the year.
In other NBA news, the Westbrook-Durant relationship took the center stage on Saturday.
Russell Westbrook‘s Thunder hosted Kevin Durant‘s Golden State Warriors for the first time since Durant left Oklahoma City via free agency last offseason. The game resulted in a 130-114 victory for the Warriors.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes writes that the game was an indicator as to why the Westbrook-Durant pairing was headed for a divorce. The two had a miniature exchange in the third quarter, which was their longest conversation since Durant left the team. It showed their philosophical differences and frustrations with each other.
Despite Westbrook accounting for 47 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, he also had eight turnovers in the Thunder’s loss.
On the other side, Durant registered 34 points and nine rebounds before grabbing their third win of the season over the Thunder.
The two players actually went one-on-one against each other. Durant was assigned to a point guard on defense for the first time this season, per ESPN.
Westbrook took the opportunity to go against his former teammate. Westbrook finished 2-of-5 for eight points and one turnover against Durant.
However, Haynes writes that this was the toxic flaw in the Westbrook-Durant dynamic. Westbrook stopped the offense to go against Durant, like he did many times over their eight seasons playing together.
Throughout their time together in Oklahoma City, Durant asked for more ball-movement. The Thunder never sustained that, and it led to Durant’s frustration with the team and Westbrook. Against superior talent and coaching, the Thunder were over matched.
Haynes wrote that it seemed like Westbrook wanted the numbers while Durant wanted the wins. Hence, the pairing could never go on.
Thus, Saturday’s game showed that Westbrook wanted the numbers while Durant wanted the win. It proved that a divorce was necessary for the Westbrook-Durant duo.
The Thunder and Warriors play again on Mar. 20, so expect more NBA news from the Westbrook-Durant saga before that game.
[Featured Image by David Zalubowski/AP Images]