THE first relevant names of the NBA trade period have been moved. No disrespect to Roy Hibbert and Jerami Grant, but they aren’t headline grabbing guys. The Denver Nuggets shipped Jusuf Nurkic and the Grizzlies 2017 1st round pick to the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee and their 2nd rounder in 2018.
ON the surface it seems like a good trade for both teams. A former first round pick in 2014, Nurkic is a handy piece and on a cheap contract gives the Blazers some breathing room. Adding another first round pick in this years talent stocked draft is a smart move by GM Neil Olshey too. Nurkic had clearly fallen out of favour in Denver, with the emergence of Nikola Jokic, leading to him getting more bench splinters than minutes on the court. With Festus Ezeli’s injury, Nurkic give the Blazers a physical center than can play behind Myers Leonard and help shoulder the ‘big man’ responsibilities.
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THERE is no denying though that Mason Plumlee is a better player, and Denver will be chuffed to add him to their budding front court. Plumlee has shown that he can play the power forward or center spot (something Nurkic couldn’t do) and is a great playmaker. Only five big man are averaging more assists than Plumlee this season, with one of them new teammate Nikola Jokic. The addition of Plumlee also gives Denver the flexibility to trade Kenneth Faried if they wish, now that they have added another big to their roster. Giving up the Grizzlies pick stings a little, but as it stands now the pick would be 23rd overall. Losing that and Nurkic and adding someone of Plumlee’s calibre is a great move.
BOTH teams were supposedly in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, but it’s clear what each teams intentions are now. The Nuggets can still claim a spot, while the trade more than likely puts the Trailblazers further out of the picture. As mentioned above, adding Plumlee for Denver means they have the possibility now of more wheeling and dealing before the trade deadline on Feb 23rd. The first trade that matters as such has taken place, now the biggest question is which domino will fall next?
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