The Trail Blazers made a move earlier this week, acquiring Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick from the Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second-rounder. While many pundits praised the Blazers for the deal, Plumlee’s teammates were sad to see him go, and there are questions about whether Nurkic will have any more of an impact in Portland than he did in Denver.
General manager Neil Olshey spoke to the team’s official website on Monday about the deal, explaining why he was willing to move Plumlee, what he expects from Nurkic, and what else the team might do before February 23.
Let’s round up a few highlights from the Blazers GM…
On the decision to move Plumlee:
“Mason’s impending free agency was certainly a factor. We love Mason, we’re going to miss him around here. We wouldn’t have been in the second round of the playoffs last year without him. But there are certain realities to managing our cap. We felt like we needed to get younger at the center position. We wanted more of a low-post player, someone that can defend size, strength. We found that with Jusuf.”
On the benefits of acquiring Nurkic:
“We felt like in the long run, this will pay longer dividends, having a younger guy on a rookie-scale [contract] to manage our cap with it. He gives us a different look defensively. He’s a big-time rebounder and I think he’ll make the game easier for guys like [Damian Lillard] and [C.J. McCollum] because we’ve got more presence in the paint now defensively.”
On additional trade talks:
“We’re active. … I can’t speak to any specifics. I can tell you that the league is very active right now, but what we’re most excited about is having three picks in this draft. I think we’ve done a very nice job in the draft so far, whether it’s using draft picks to acquire players – like we did with Robin Lopez or Mason Plumlee – or drafting guys like Dame and C.J. and [Allen Crabbe]. So we’re excited about the prospect of that. It’s a big-time draft, it’s got incredible depth. We’ll be excited about it in June, but we now also have those tools for the next 10 days to put into play if a player that’ll impact our win total becomes available.”
On how the Blazers’ loaded salary cap affects their outlook going forward:
“This roster was always going to be a work in progress. We have the benefit of having Paul Allen as an owner. He let us retain all of our players. It wasn’t realistic to think we could manage that cap going forward, but it put us in position to keep as much as possible [and] give ourselves a chance to compete, knowing at some point we’re going to have to make some moves.”