Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers

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Age: 23

Free-Agent Status: Restricted

2017-18 Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.4 blocks, 50.5 percent shooting

Advanced Stats: 19.2 PER, 8.40 TPA, 1.91 RPM

Jusuf Nurkic’s future with the Blazers is foggier than ever following their first-round dispatch at the hands of the Pelicans.

Bigs with finite pick-and-pop range and face-up chops must be elite stoppers to carry real cachet. As the rim-protection anchor for the NBA’s eighth-best regular-season defense, Nurkic appeared to have just that. Opponents shot 54.8 nike nfl jerseys cheap percent against him at the hoop—the ninth-best mark among 98 players to challenge at least 200 point-blank looks—and Portland defended like a top-four outfit with him on the floor.

Squaring off with New Orleans did a number on Nurkic’s stands. He was no match for the frontcourt combination of Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. While no one is well-equipped to handle Davis, Nurkic has limitations beyond the restricted area that hamstring the Blazers’ ability to react.

Sticking Al-Farouq Aminu on Davis—or a fellow unicorn—leaves Nurkic to chase around power forwards and glorified wings. And he struggles against explosive rim-runners or anyone with a semblance of outside-in handles. He would have been better off facing a fully healthy Pelicans squad that had DeMarcus Cousins jumping center.

Investing in Nurkic for his rim protection alone toes a dangerous line. As Cleaning The Glass’ Ben Falk nfl jerseys cheap nike wrote, his stinginess around the iron is more systemic than developed:

“Jusuf Nurkic patrols the paint for Portland with a unique mix of oafishness and grace that has produced a consistent track record as a strong rim protector. But it’s about more than personnel: with only a partial season of Nurkic, nfl nike jerseys cheap Terry Stotts’ outfit ranked first in this stat last year (though not by the same margin) and this season is their fourth top-three finish in the last five years in this stat, despite a changing roster.”

Portland’s salary-cap situation doesn’t help matters. Carrying Nurkic’s $8.8 million hold alone drags the ledger into luxury-tax territory ($123 million)—and that doesn’t include potential new deals for fellow restricted free agents Pat Connaughton or Shabazz Napier.nike nfl jersey cheap

Soldiering onward with Zach Collins and Ed Davis offers genuine temptation. The Blazers outscored opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions with them playing together in the regular season, and the two gave them more defensive maneuverability versus the Pelicans.

But Davis is a free agent himself, and Collins only started seeing a lion’s share of his time at the 5 in the playoffs. Exploring the alternative guarantees Portland nothing—infinitely so if Stotts and his defensive scheme are shown the door.cheap nfl jerseys nike