Report | Jusuf Nurkic to test restricted free agency next year

Wearing a protective mask, Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic gets set for an opponent's foul shot during the first half of an NBA basketball preseason game against the Toronto Raptors in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
AP Photo/Steve Dykes

Count Jusuf Nurkic among the long list of 2014 draftees who won’t be signing a contract extension before the October 16 deadline. Why? The Portland Trail Blazers never approached the Bosnian center with any terms, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports’ The Vertical.

Nurkic proved instrumental to Portland’s late-season playoff run after being acquired from the Denver Nuggets at the trade deadline. The Blazers went 14-6 with Nurkic in the lineup before he suffered a broken leg in late March. The team clung to the eighth-best record in the Western Conference during his absence, setting the stage for a first-round matchup against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors.

Portland was surprisingly competitive in that series, which ended in a sweep, but clearly missed the two-way influence Nurkic provides down low. Though healthy enough to be dusted off and play 17 minutes in Game 3, he was far from his normally impactful self.

It’s not surprising that Nurkic and the Blazers didn’t come to terms on an extension. At 23, he’s already been tagged with the “injury prone” label as a result of knee surgery in May 2015 that sidelined him for over half the following season. It’s not like Nurkic has enjoyed a huge sample size of success, either. His strong play as a rookie came in limited minutes with Denver out of the playoff race, and his equally encouraging start with Portland was cut unfortunately short.

There’s also the reality of Nurkic’s body type and playing profile to be considered here. The league is getting smaller, and weight problems have been an issue for Nurkic – who supposedly lost 30 pounds in the offseason – since he’s been in the NBA. The value of big men who aren’t elite rim-protectors and don’t stretch the floor decreases by the day, too.

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