On February 13th Nurkic was traded from Denver, along with a first-round draft pick to Portland for Plumlee, a 2018 second-round pick and cash considerations.
The Bosnian center had fallen out of favor with the Nuggets. Once they opted with Nikola Jokic to lead the franchise forward after discovering the two struggled to play together cohesively, Nurkic saw his role significantly decrease. Fortunately for the 7-footer, he has really found his feet in Portland, leading his new side to a 5-3 run since his arrival, while putting up some impressive numbers to match.
With Portland, Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 16.5 points, 9.6 boards, 4.5 assists, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 steals. He has shot 53.9% on FGs, 75% on FTs. pic.twitter.com/0XSokD1A6T
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 10, 2017
When the trade was made, many held the opinion that the Nuggets got the better deal in off-loading want away Nurkic and receiving Plumlee, a defensive-minded big to partner their perennial star, Jokic. However, this has proved to be the furthest thing from the truth. Since the trade, Nurkic has been on fire, and when he’s played 30+ minutes in a game, the Trail Blazers have only lost once (4-1). On top of this, he’s notched 18.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.8 blocks per contest while shooting at a 55.5-percent clip when he’s played 30 minutes or more — some pretty impressive statistics.
The 22-year-old has been playing some of his best basketball since joining forces with Portland, including an outstanding performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, where the Trail Blazers triumphed to a 114-108 overtime win. Nurkic was instrumental in this victory, as he led the game in points (28), rebounds (20), assists (8) and blocks (6) — career-highs in every aspect. The former Croatian league player also joined an elite club that night, becoming the only player to post a 28-point, 20-rebound, 8-assist and 6-steal performance since Charles Barkley achieved the feat in 1986.
Jusuf Nurkic in Portland:
16.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.9 BPG, 54% FG
Nikola Jokic this season:
15.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, .8 BPG, 58% FG
— Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) March 10, 2017
Meanwhile in Denver, the Nuggets find themselves with a 5-5 record over the last 10 games as they continue to battle for a Western Conference playoff berth, and while Jokic has been his usual productive self, Plumlee has fallen into his shadow. Since his arrival in Denver, the Duke product has averaged 9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game. And with a significant lack of dominant, attention-grabbing performances (perhaps the 19-point, 10-rebound performance against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday qualifies), his most notable moment in a Nuggets uniform is when his groin was punted by Wizards forward Markieff Morris. For a bench piece, the 27-year-old has put up some sturdy numbers, but his impact has been overshadowed by the sheer dominance of Nurkic over in Portland.
The ceiling to Nurkic’s potential is increasing with each game, and with Portland giving him the adequate minutes to prove his worth, there could be some far bigger performances from the center. At this stage in time, the fight for the eight seed in the West is wide open, and with Portland (9th) just one game behind Denver (8th) in the conference, Nurkic may just lead his new team to a potential playoff berth.
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 10, 2017