The Denver Nuggets have acquired Mason Plumlee from the Portland Trail Blazers. How will this effect the team going forward?
The Denver Nuggets have today acquired center Mason Plumlee from the Portland Trail Blazers, per Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical.
In exchange for Plumlee, the Nuggets will send out third year center Jusuf Nurkic and Memphis’ 2017 first round draft pick to Portland. The Nuggets will also receive a second round draft pick to complete the deal.
Denver have reportedly been shopping Jusuf Nurkic for some time now, so this deal shouldn’t shock Nuggets fans. With the emergence of Nikola Jokic as a genuine superstar, Nurkic has been forced to the bench and seen his role on the team minimised. However, both Nurkic and the teams front office mutually agreed that the Bosnian has the talent to be a starting center in this league, and deserved to get the opportunity to do so.
That, combines with the fact that Nurkic and Jokic don’t play well together, is why GM Tim Connelly and his staff pulled the trigger on this deal.
In Portland, Nurkic will certainly get a chance to show his capabilities, as the Blazers are desperate for a big man to play behind star guards CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. Their off-season addition of Festus Ezeli is yet to play a game for the franchise, and may miss the entirety of the season.
Initial reaction to the deal has been mixed from a Denver standpoint. On one hand, the Nuggets just traded away a promising young center along with a first round draft pick for a player who will be a restricted free agent come July. On the other hand, the Nuggets just acquired an incredibly athletic, super talented center who will compliment what the team is currently doing.
I am taking the latter stance.
Plumlee arrives in Denver with a skill set similar to that of Nikola Jokic. He is a brilliant distributer of the ball who will have no issues playing in an uptempo system. Scoring wise, Plumlee isn’t as cogent as Jokic but he is still averaging 11.1 points per game in 28 minutes of action this season. He is also bringing down 8.0 rebounds and dishing out 4.0 assists currently.
Plumlee will be able to come off the bench and encourage ball movement and passing with the second unit, something that has been lacking when Jokic is resting.
Defensively Plumlee is solid, but not spectacular. The case can certainly be made that he is a more intelligent defender than Nurkic and thus, and upgrade on that side of the ball.
Head coach Michael Malone experimented with playing Jokic and Nurkic alongside each other to open the season to little success. They got in each others way and took up to much space in the paint. However, Plumlee doesn’t need to be close to the basket in order to be an asset so playing Plumlee next to Jokic could be an option moving forward.
Typically, giving up a first round pick in a deal is a big loss. However, not in this case. The Nuggets have a multitude of young players in Jokic, Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley and Gary Harris. The team doesn’t have enough playing time to distribute as is, the Nuggets don’t need any more young assets. The pick traded away will most likely translate into a late first round selection, and Denver still have their own pick this year which will be higher.
Overall, this trade is a good one for Denver. Simply put, they are sending out a player who doesn’t fit the team for a guy who does.
Plumlee is only 26 years of age and just now bursting into his prime. The Nuggets may have to pay him this summer, but he has the chance to become a key member of the squad as the franchise enters the Nikola Jokic era.