Jusuf Nurkic New Home #4: San Antonio Spurs
On the surface, the fit in this trade is a bit confusing: why would a team that just won the draft lottery to acquire a generational 7-foot-5 player want to trade for a center?
While the conventions of the basketball of yore may dissuade teams from this approach, the Spurs may look to buck old trends and opt for a similar approach that the Thunder took in their consideration of Nurkic.
While Victor Wembanyama is a terrifyingly long defender who also dominates in and out of the paint, he’s quite thin by NBA standards and would face a brutal amount of physical punishment trying to match up with players like Nurkic, Joel Embiid, or even Jarrett Allen.
Pairing him with a big who could take the heat off of him would benefit Wembanyama.
Nurkic is built to score on the inside and out-muscle players for rebounds, but he also has a nifty knack for pocket passes out of the high post or off of hand-offs. Playing him next to Wembanyama could unlock a great big-to-big passing game that could help San Antonio insulate its future star from punishment and reach his ceiling sooner.
In this scenario, the Blazers would have the option of shoring up their center spot with an old friend or acquiring a talented young wing player. Zach Collins is a bit of a dirty word in some Portland circles, but he flashed toward the end of the season with the Spurs.
Even though it may require the 23rd pick, acquiring Keldon Johnson could be the answer to the team’s woes on the wing:
If the Spurs believe in both Jeremy Sochan and Devin Vassell as future starters, they’ll need to one day move Johnson. For the Blazers, the chance to grab a good defensive wing player who is only 23 would be a major coup.
He probably doesn’t have the upside to be the second star next to Lillard, but pairing Johnson with Sharpe should give Portland its best wing duo in a long time. That combo could be just what the team needs to return to the postseason and make some noise.