With no offer on table, Jusuf Nurkic expects to be restricted free agent next summer

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What is center Jusuf Nurkic‘s value on the open market?

He certainly has value to the Trail Blazers. He played 20 games for them after Portland traded for him, and he averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. More importantly, Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6 in that stretch.

Nurkic is eligible for a contract extension, but for Portland that’s a small sample size on which to base a big contract, even if you ignore potential health concerns. The two sides talked, but no deal appears forthcoming, and Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports reports Nurkic is ready to enter restricted free agency next season.

Barring a dramatic change in talks, Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic plans on entering restricted free agency next summer as no contract extension offer has been made, league sources told The Vertical.

Three comments on this:

First, this is exactly what an agent trying to push for a deal says off the record to try and push the organization (and scare the fan base a little). I don’t doubt Charnia or his sources, the sides likely are nowhere near a deal, but know that every sourced story is somebody spinning something. Here, the motive seems fairly transparent.

Second, Nurkic has looked to be, and may prove to be, a vital part of the Trail Blazers core going forward — and Portland may be willing to pay big to keep him. We mentioned the raw numbers, but more important than his ability to fit with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on offense (and he does), he made a terrible defensive team better. That’s how the Blazers take a step forward, and he can be part of it.

Third, and this may be the biggest factor as to why there is no deal, next summer is going to be a very tight free agent market, especially for big men. Only about half a dozen teams (maybe a couple more) will have max money to spend, and only a few will need a center. On that market, as unrestricted free agents will be DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan (unless he and the Clippers reach a deal over the weekend, which is unlikely), Greg Monroe, and Nerlens Noel, plus restricted free agents Nikola Jokic and Clint Capela. And those are just the big names. That’s a lot more supply than demand. Much like Noel and others found out the hard way this summer, there are bigs who will expect to bet paid and be very disappointed with the market for their services. Portland understands the market and may be making offers to Nurkic accordingly.