Expect Jusuf Nurkic to be the cool kid on most waiver wires after the Nuggets finally moved him in a trade on Sunday to the Trail Blazers in exchange for PF/C Mason Plumlee and a second round pick in the 2018 draft.
Denver also moved one of their two first round picks (acquired via the Grizzlies) to Portland.
Nurkic is only 22, yet had become a disappointment of sorts in the eyes of the Nuggets, especially after the eye-opening performance he put up for the Bosnian national team in this past Summer Olympics. The move for the Blazers will immediately increase his playing time, and numbers that shrank to a mere 13.3 per game in his last five with the Nuggets.
In Fantasy Basketball, Nurkic should be picked up in all formats. Owned in just over 21 percent of polled standard leagues, the seven-footer goes to a more uptempo offense and will benefit from playing with the backcourt of All-Stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. I would suspect Nurkic will come off the bench for a game or two before becoming a fixture in the lineup.
Averaging eight points and 5.8 boards per game, Nurkic should project as a 12-point, eight-rebound caliber player the rest of the season. He averages just under a block per game, a number that should rise with more minutes, but his 49 percent accuracy from the free throw line should bring considerable pause for owners already struggling in that department.
Noah Vonleh, who has started the last four games for the Trail Blazers, may see a mild rise in ownership. He’s only going to offer rebounds and a blocked shot or two, but is only Fantasy-viable in the deepest of deep leagues.
As for Plumlee, his value takes a hit.
Plumlee averaged 11.1 points, eight rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game while also averaging a double-double (12.1 points, 10.2 boards) in his last 10 games. He is a versatile, team-first type of player who will adapt to whatever role expected out of him.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see he him paired with Nikola Jokic in the starting lineup, yet Plumlee’s future in Denver may not be fully developed until the Nuggets decided on what to do with Kenneth Faried, who now is likely the next player heading out of the Mile High City. I certainly wouldn’t drop Plumlee, but his days as a solid yet unspectacular DFS performer are done. There’s also the prospects of either Faried moving on or Jokic being injured, making it more difficult to drop him now.
Long-term, Portland wins this deal, easy. The Blazers get a young center that, with the right push from the likes of coach Terry Stotts, Lillard and McCollum, could emerge as the dominant force he looked like at times last summer for Team Bosnia. They also now have three picks in the first round of a draft considered by many to be the deepest in years.
The Trail Blazers are only a game behind the Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the West. It will be interesting to see if a Jokic-Nurkic collison decides who gets to be cannon fodder for the Warriors in the first round.