By Marc Mandell 3/17/17
One month in since the trade between Denver and Portland involving Jusuf Nurkic and Mason Plumlee. Nuggets needed reliable depth behind Jokic, and the Trailblazers needed some girth. Both got what they were looking for. Has there been a winner yet?
If you are unfamiliar with the situation, Jusuf started the season in Denver, and played okay. He’s good on the boards, though not the best shooter. He was a decent center, but then a line up change came from Coach Malone. All of a sudden Jusuf found himself playing behind Nikola Jokic, the second year phenom that all the fans are clamoring for. Jokic started to come out of his shell, forcing Malone to re-evaluate minute distribution.
When the time came, Nurkic seemed to be okay with giving up time to Nikola. He even said it in a post-game presser. Then, London happened, and boom, Nikola and the starting rotation lit up, and continued to. The wins started to come in waives rather than spots. The team started to look like a team with a plan. All the while, with dwindling help from the 280 lb, 7-footer Bosnian Bear Nurkic.
As the team continued its accent, angst started to show itself. With the trade deadline approaching, growing discontent from Nurkic and an issue with draft picks, it was time to move some things around for Denver. The timing seemed to work out too, as Portland was looking to make a deal as well. So, Denver sent Nurkic and the rights to Memphis’s first round pick to Portland for Mason Plumlee and a second round pick. The goal here is to look at how it’s shaken out since Feb. 15th. So, has one team won the trade so far?
Short answer? Yes. Both players have improved, and their teams are benefiting from it. There appears to be more growth from Nurkic in the Rip City, though, I think he had further to go because he started from lower. The change of scenery has been healthy for him in Portland.
Plumlee has improved as well. His passing game has found a home that he didn’t have in Portland, and his addition has helped Jokic, the star in the making, achieve 5 triple-doubles. Both have shown well with their new teams. Here’s the pudding:
Jusuf Nurkic with Denver. Averaged 18 minutes, 8.8 points, 6 boards and 2.3 assists per game. Those numbers aren’t too bad by themselves right? Especially considering he was playing second fiddle to another big center. Though the numbers were dwindling by the end of his tenure in Denver, in both time and stats, it was his attitude that was killing his career and his team.
Mason Plumlee with Portland. His game has been consistent all season. Though his numbers were starting to dip a little bit towards the trade, he is an athletic tall guy and the passing game is strong. He was averaging 10 points per game, 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 25ish minutes. He was filling in for Evan Turner, and doing a decent job too. He was a team guy and was relied upon while in Oregon.
Portland Pre-trade was on a 5-9 run, and a 2 game losing streak. While Plumlee was an asset, they lacked that large, strong physical presence in the post game. Other than that, to be honest, I’m not really sure why Portland showed interest in Nurkic. He is a mass of potential, but only potential.
Denver Pre-trade had an issue as well. They had two giant centers, and only enough minutes to feed one or the other. While Nikola was burgeoning, Nurkic was floundering. Jusuf was full of malcontent and had an issue with whining to the media. The fans were over it, I have no doubt the coaches and teammates were too. Though I can only really speak to the fan part. The pre-trade wn loss record ended with an 11-7 run, dating back from Jan. 13th to Feb 13th. That includes the enormous win over Golden State, the first game with Nurkic off the roster….
Nurkic in Portland. Now, while Jusuf has begun anew, his stats have improved. He has gotten better while in Portland. His points, rebounds, attitude, everything. It’s weird, I know. Not only has his personal numbers improved, the team has as well. They are on a 7-5 run, including big wins against the Thunder and the Spurs. Nurkic seems to have found a good niche, and a new outlook on his role. Not to mention his monster game against the 76ers. The deal so far has worked out for Portland and Jusuf.
Plumlee in Denver. Plumlee has also excelled in Denver. He seems to have developed some real chemistry with his new teammates, and understands his role on the team. Though he is 4-years older than Jusuf, the experience I think is rubbing off on the younger guys. Besides, some added experience on the Nuggets is a good idea. The athletics and passing abilities are capitol, considering the guy he is playing behind, and can allow Coach Malone to run similar schemes no matter who is on the court.
Denver is now firmly holding on to the 8th seed in the west, and is rolling right along. Their schedule certainly doesn’t get any easier and they will need all the wins they can get. Portland will need a big push to make the playoffs, while holding off the Pelicans at the same time.
So who won the trade so far? Team-wise, Denver. Player? Nurkic. Here’s why. One, Denver got a quality athlete that can allow them to run consistent schemes. Two, the Nuggets were able to move a very unhappy guy out of the locker room, improving moral. And three, the experience and consistency that Plumlee brings to the table as a player has already shown itself to be a worth while investment. It is Nurkic that is thriving as a player and continuing to grow. He has found a new look at the game and seems to be doing real good with it.
Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to get at me with your thoughts. @CLO_Sports on Twitter, 360Sports Review on Facebook. Who do you think got the better deal?