It’s been nearly a month since the Denver Nuggets traded Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee and a second-rounder. It’s early, but the change of scenery seems to have done Nurkic a world of good.
The 22-year-old center is averaging 14.9 points (54.9 percent shooting), 8.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks in seven games with Portland. He looks interested and energetic — nothing like the pouty player he was this season for Denver.
Nurkic had another nice game Tuesday night to help Portland beat Oklahoma City 126-121. He grabbed eight rebounds, dished out four assists and scored 17 points, six of which came in the decisive final minute of the game. You can see some of those buckets toward the end of this clip:
The Trail Blazers are 4-3 since Nurkic started playing. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he’s altered the outlook of their season. Nurkic has received 204 minutes with Portland. The team is outscoring opponents by 40 points when he’s on the floor; when he sits, Portland has gotten outscored by 102 points. He’s completely flipped a switch since the trade.
It was never going to work out for Nurkic with the Nuggets — not with a superior player like Nikola Jokic getting most of the minutes at center. Nurkic is now shining in a more prominent role.
Mason Plumlee has looked solid as Denver’s reserve center so far. His numbers — 7.8 points (51.1 percent shooting), 6.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 22.9 minutes per game — are decent. He’s allowed Denver to play the same free-flowing, movement-heavy offense even when Jokic goes to the bench.
Nurkic has looked phenomenal with Portland so far. But this could end up being the rare NBA trade that benefits both sides.
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