The Trail Blazers and center Jusuf Nurkic didn’t reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension prior to October’s deadline, but the two sides have interest in a long-term deal and are expected to resume talks in the summer, agent Aylton Tesch tells Ben Golliver of SI.com.
“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch said. “We had some [extension] talks, but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”
Nurkic, 23, looked great in Portland down the stretch last season, averaging 15.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 20 games for the club after being traded to the Blazers by the Nuggets. However, his season ended early due to a broken leg. Considering he spent most of the offseason recovering from that injury, and the Blazers only got a brief look at him in 2016/17, it made sense that the team wanted to see more before committing to a lucrative, long-term deal.
So far this season, Nurkic’s play has been a little up and down, but he’s averaging a solid 14.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 16 starts. The Bosnian big man is also happy playing in Portland after spending the first two and a half years of his NBA career in Denver, where the Nuggets often had an overcrowded frontcourt.
As Golliver details, Nurkic and his agent requested a trade multiple times during his stint in Denver, with the Nuggets fulfilling the trade request his camp made during the 2016/17 season. Nurkic, who felt like outsiders viewed him as a player with an attitude problem when he was a Nugget, was seeking an opportunity where he could be the full-time starting center, and was grateful that Denver was able to accommodate that wish.
“I needed a change of scenery. Both sides needed it,” Nurkic said. “I’m thankful Denver let me go where I wanted to go. If I was doing all the bad things that people said, the Nuggets wouldn’t have traded me where I wanted to go, and they probably would have gotten a way better deal than they got.”
Nurkic will be a restricted free agent in 2018, giving the Blazers the opportunity to match any offer sheet he may sign. While Portland would presumably like to retain the young center, the team already has more than $110MM in salary guarantees on its books for 2018/19, so a new deal for Nurkic figures to increase that total beyond the tax threshold, barring another salary dump.