Cut loose No. 1: Jusuf Nurkić
In July 2022, Nurkic signed a four-year, $70 million contract extension. He is an unrestricted free agent in 2026, so he wouldn’t be “cut,” but instead is someone the Blazers should strongly consider trading.
One metric heavily valued in the NBA community amongst analysts, media, and fans is FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR player rating. According to FiveThirtyEight, the RAPTOR algorithm determines a player’s “individual plus-minus measurements and wins above replacement, which accounts for playing time.”
Nurkic is 123rd overall amongst players this season in RAPTOR rating. He has a calculated 2.5 wins above replacement.
While he’s talented enough to be a starting center in the NBA, the data supports what the eye test shows – there are better fits for Portland.
Nurkic isn’t a great pairing with the smaller backcourt of Lillard and Simons. The Blazers have a bottom-10 defense in the NBA in terms of points allowed. They could use someone that can effectively switch out onto the perimeter and is more of an athletic rim protector.
Offensively, Nurkic is a negative in the RAPTOR rating. Although he shoots over 50 percent from the field and averages 13.3 points, he doesn’t quite fit into the Blazers’ offensive scheme. The offense seems too stagnant with Nurkic’s back-to-the-basket style of play; the team needs to play to its star players’ strengths.
Easier said than done, but Portland could use a Draymond Green-type that can set a multitude of screens to free up Lillard and Simons and facilitate the offense at times.