Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic will become a restricted free agent this offseason, joining a number of valuable players in the free-agency pool. Though Portland may be Nurkic’s best option to win—as the Trail Blazers finished 3rd in the Western Conference in 2017-18—signing elsewhere could bring a much larger paycheck.
But, Nurkic must weigh his options. At just 23-years-old and already an established center with room to improve, Nurkic must choose to win or chase the dollar signs. His current contract is worth an abysmal $8 million over four years. According to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype.com, numerous teams have their eyes on Nurkic this summer even though Portland will likely match any contract offered to him.
Nurkic averaged 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game in 79 games for Portland in 2017-18.
Three top destinations for Nurkic include returning to Portland or jumping ship and singing with the Dallas Mavericks or Washington Wizards.
3. Dallas Mavericks
The last time the Dallas Mavericks had an above-average center was during Tyson Chandler’s second stint with the team in 2014-15. Dallas came close to having an All-Star center in 2015 when the DeAndre Jordan saga occurred where he verbally agreed with Dallas to sign a four-year deal there then changed his mind and returned to Los Angeles.
Jusuf Nurkic can be a great fit for the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks. Dallas, who has enough cap space to sign a big name in free-agency, could go the cheaper route and get into a bidding war against Portland for Nurkic. Rather than chasing one star such as DeAndre Jordan (again), DeMarcus Cousins, or Julius Randle—all who have vowed they want to be apart of a winning team sooner than later—Dallas could sign Nurkic along with other players from the free-agency pool that they can afford.
Nurkic is the defensive force Dallas desperately needs, and alongside 20-year-old guard Dennis Smith Jr., the two can become a solid one-two punch. Also, Nurkic would be able to learn from Dirk Nowitzki in what may be the last season of his illustrious career in 2018-19. Nurkic can finish with the best of them down low, and with improved post moves learned from Nowitzki, he can excel even more.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
Ruling out Jusuf Nurkic re-signing with Portland wouldn’t be logical. Star forward Damian Lillard has developed a tight bond with Nurkic since he came to Portland via trade in 2016-17 and has said he wants the Bosnian center back with the team.
The Trail Blazers’ 3rd place finish in a loaded Western Conference this past season adds fuel to a decision to re-sign there. Though he can be inconsistent at times, Portland is a team that has trust in Nurkic and his relationship with the city is a good one.
Or, instead of re-signing with Portland this offseason, Nurkic could take the $4.8 million qualifying offeron the table for 2018-19 and test out the market next summer when more teams have money to spend. That decision would also force Nurkic to play his butt off in 2018-19 to earn as much money as possible if he were to have an impressive season.
Portland will do everything in their power to bring Nurkic back. It will be tough for teams to outbid Portland as they’ll likely match any offer offered to him, but the Blazers can only go so far. They, too, want to bring in a solid name in free-agency.
1. Washington Wizards
At 34-years-old, Washington Wizards long-time center Marcin Gortat’s production has declined and he recently admitted the 2018-19 season may be his last. Towards the end of 2017-18, John Wall took some harsh shots at Gortat saying he doesn’t fit the “atheltic center” mold that Washington desperatly needs. The two teammates are known to having a poor relationship and Wall’s drama may further force Gortat into retiring.
Gortat’s backup, Ian Mahinmi isn’t yet suited to become the Wizards’ starting center as they are looking for a young big to sign this offseason. One name rings a bell for who Washington can afford and fit into their lineup… Jusuf Nurkic.
Replacing Nurkic for Gortat and placing him alongside All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal could make a strong, young trio.Washington’s 2017-18 season was a rough one as the team dealt with numerous injuries all season. With a 43-39 record, the Wizards snuck into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and were defeated against Toronto in the first round 4-2.
Although Nurkic could help Washington instantly improve, the team doesn’t have much cap space. Washington could offer the 23-year-old center roughly $8.6 million a year instead of in the double-digit range in which he expects from other teams.
If Portland wants to let go of Nurkic, Washington can be a nice fit.
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