Portland Trail Blazers: Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton exposes Jusuf Nurkic

Deandre Ayton, Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, 2022 NBA free agency (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Deandre Ayton, Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, 2022 NBA free agency (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Myles Turner, Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner, Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers could trade Jusuf Nurkic for a more defensive-minded center

The most head-on resolution would be to move on from Jusuf Nurkic, trading him for a traditionally defensive center in return.

Nurk does have pretty strong trade value. He’s only 26 years old, is signed on for under $13 million next year, and is versatilely skilled. He’s an above average passer and finisher at his position, can hold his own on defense, and is even extending his range to the 3-point line. There are a number of teams that could benefit from adding Nurk to their lineup.

It’s pretty rare to see a positionally equal trade, meaning it’s not often we see two teams straight up swap players who play the same spot. The Blazers would most likely have to include other pieces in the deal to entice another team into taking the swap.

Here’s a deal that I’d like to see the Blazers make:

In this deal, the Blazers add a dark-horse DPOY candidate in Myles Turner and a perfect glue guy for their backcourt in Malcolm Brogdon. Turner would be a massive upgrade over Nurkic on defense. In 2020-2021, the Pacers big led the league in blocks at 3.4 rejections per night; the next closest player was Rudy Gobert at 2.7.

While the Pacers finished at just 13th in the league in defensive rating, they would have ended much lower if not for Turner. With Myles on the court, the Pacers allowed a measly 107.9 points per 100 possessions, which would have landed at third best in the NBA this season. With Turner on the bench, the Pacers had a defensive rating of 112.7, good for 17th in the league.

Not only would Turner transform Portland’s defense, he would also open up the floor for the Blazers slashers. In 2020-2021, Myles hit 35 percent of his triples while taking over four attempts per game. Nurkic did hit 40 percent of his attempts but took less than 30 deep tries on the season.

Adding Malcolm Brogdon here turns this deal from good to great. Brogdon is one of the most underrated players in the league. While he’ll almost never end up on the NBA Top 10 highlight reel, he’s one of the biggest gamers in the league. He’s a great perimeter defender, can run an offense, can play either guard spot, and hit over 44 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last year.

He’ll also have no qualms taking a backseat to Dame and waiting in the wings to run the offense when called upon. There’s possibly no better fit to replace CJ in the backcourt.

The Pacers are a team in limbo and in dire need of a restart. Signing Brogdon away from the Milwaukee Bucks was an absolute burglary, but the team is capped-out and the core’s ceiling has been made clear.

The Pacers regressed this year and failed to advance in the play-in tournament, ending Indiana’s six-year playoff streak. The Pacers should be ready to press detonate on their current core.

While Brogdon is a much better defender and more well-rounded than McCollum, CJ has a supernatural gift for scoring the basketball. A true number one option on offense is the hardest thing to find in the NBA. Adding CJ’s three-level scoring and shot creation abilities could be the missing piece that unlocks the Pacers potential.

Losing Turner is a tough pill to swallow, but he’s had one foot out of the door for a while now. The Sabonis-Turner pairing looks like it’s finally run its course and the Pacers would be hard-pressed to find a better swap than Nurkic. If they swing this deal, Indiana would have the best passing front court in the entire league and two of the most versatile bigs in the game at their disposal.

If the Pacers want to take another crack at winning with their current core, swapping Brogdon and Turner for CJ and Nurk would be their best shot at a jolt in the arm while keeping them competitive enough for a deep playoff run.

If they find that they need to totally reset and rebuild, CJ and Nurk should hold plenty of trade value to secure them young players and draft capital.

This deal would be a great move for both teams, but could be the transaction that takes the Blazers from a dark-horse to full-on contenders.

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