The Portland Trail Blazers finally made a trade. Pending approval from the league office on Monday, GM Neil Olshey has sent starting center Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second round pick to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round pick, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
The trade gives the Blazers three first round picks in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft.
Portland had to make a move at some point thanks to deals given out this summer to Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe. Plumlee, while critical to the Blazers’ offensive attack thanks to his passing, is a liability on defense. At $2.2 million this season coming off his rookie contract, he’s also due a huge pay increase that the Blazers couldn’t afford to pay even if they wanted to.
For Denver, it’s an interesting move considering they already have a young, passing big man in Nikola Jokic. While there is a potential for either Jokic or Plumlee to play the power forward position — both have in the past — it’s not immediately clear what the long-term plan is in Denver with these two big men.
Then again, having watched Plumlee extensively in Portland, his best role at this point is as a backup center that could help destroy opposing second unit defenses. If that is the long-term plan in Denver, it could be an excellent move for a team that still has moves to make. Emmanuel Mudiay is rumored to be extremely available.
Portland, meanwhile, starts the long process of thinning out the herd. Olshey’s roster was built to be traded, and I’m frankly a little surprised that he was able to bounce Plumlee first. With a low cap figure on Plumlee and the Blazers underwater with Turner and Crabbe, my compatriots and I in the Portland media sphere thought it would be unlikely they could move him without moving either of the wings first. To get back Nurkic and another first rounder is Olshey pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
We’re almost certainly going to see another trade from Portland, whether it’s at the deadline or come draft time. They aren’t going to sit on those three first round draft picks, so it should be fun to see what they do with them.
ESPN has written that the Blazers are looking to move injured center Festus Ezeli to a team that may need to get to the salary floor. That would include the Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets.
Trade season is upon us, and two of the teams who needed to make moves have done so with a little more than 10 days to go.