Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, an unrestricted free agent this summer, will be sitting for at least four weeks with a plantar fasciitis injury. John Hollinger of The Athletic reads the tea leaves and examines Nurkic’s potential future in Portland, as well as explaining why the club will likely operate over the cap during the 2022 offseason.
Nurkic is in the final season of a four-year, $48MM deal with the Trail Blazers and has averaged 17.4 PPG, 12.6 RPG and 3.4 APG since the start of 2022. Though the 27-year-old is no longer the shot blocker he was before suffering a compound fracture of his left leg near the end of the 2018/19 NBA season, Hollinger notes that the rest of his game seems more or less to have returned. The 6’11” big man is averaging 15.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.1 SPG this year.
As Hollinger writes, the Trail Blazers could sign Nurkic to a contract extension that starts at $14.4MM, a 120% annual increase of his current salary. However, Hollinger believes that Nurkic should be able to net significantly more than that in free agency this summer. If they re-sign Nurkic and retain Josh Hart, the Blazers would likely be an over-the-cap team, allowing them to retain their $20MM+ trade exception.
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- Injured Timberwolves point guard McKinley Wright IV, currently on a two-way deal with the club, will start taking contact in team practices as he continues to recover from a left UCL issue, per Minnesota’s official PR team (via Twitter). The Timberwolves are set to reassess Wright on Sunday. The 23-year-old rookie out of Colorado has appeared in just three games with Minnesota this year.
- Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will soon scrimmage with the Grand Rapids Gold, Denver’s NBA G League affiliate, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Porter, still working to rehabilitate following a December 1 back surgery, has already resumed one-on-one contact workouts. “You got a 6-foot-10 guy that shoots it like that, and then you start to remind yourself, ‘Man, like, last year, before we had injuries to [guard Jamal Murray], we all felt we had a chance to win it,’” head coach Michael Malone said. “Whenever we get those guys back, this year or next year, we feel the same way. We have a chance to win it when we get fully healthy… As of right now, still in the early steps of trying to re-integrate those guys back slowly, and as they get cleared to do more and more things, then, obviously, we can ramp it up with them.”
- The Nuggets have hired former NBA forward Darrell Arthur to serve as a basketball operations associate for the team, Denver announced (Twitter link). Arthur, 33, played for nine NBA seasons, appearing in 503 games. He was with the Nuggets from the 2013/14 season through the 2017/18 season.