2. Create some cap space, improve at center
For all the good Jusuf Nurkic has done both on and off the court in Portland, his play tailed off last season. Injuries have become a problem for the 7-footer, and he was too slow-footed and plodding to play in head coach Chauncey Billups’ defensive scheme. When he was on the court, his defensive liabilities outweighed his interior offensive production.
Portland also still owes Nurkic $17, $18, and $19 million, respectively, over the next three seasons, by which time he’ll be on the wrong side of 30. It’s time to move on from The Bosnian Beast and get younger and more athletic up front.
In this scenario, the Blazers accomplish both while also saving more than $9 million in cap space. While talent-wise Collins may not be the same player Nurk is, he’s much more mobile and versatile defensively, and Portland wouldn’t be losing much in terms of size; Collins is listed at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds, while Nurkic is listed at 6-11, 290.
From San Antonio’s perspective, Nurkic is an ideal fit next to this year’s eventual No. 1 pick, Victor Wembanyama. Despite being 7-5, the skinny Frenchman is much better suited playing on the perimeter on offense and as a roamer on defense. It would be a waste of Wembanyama’s talent to stick him on the block.
Nurkic, meanwhile, could do exactly that – be an inside presence, rebounder, and rim-deterrent while fighting the battles against NBA centers Wemby isn’t ready for, and frankly should never waste time or energy doing.