Portland Trail Blazers: Who should be part of the long-term core?

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
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2. Jusuf Nurkic

In the 2018 offseason, Jusuf Nurkic agreed to a four-year deal to stay in Rip City. He was playing the best basketball of his career and was arguably the team’s second best player during the regular season. Nurkic broke his leg just weeks before the playoffs, and he wasn’t able to be a part of the team’s magical playoff run on the court to end the season.

Before suffering that injury, he was averaging 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the field. His presence down low on both ends of the court is vital to the Blazers’ success and was one of the main reasons they were able to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the league in 2018-19.

Nurkic can score from all over the court, makes smart passes, sets big screens, rebounds the ball strong on both ends, protects the rim and brings energy, passion and heart to this roster. He was missed greatly in the playoffs, especially against the Warriors in the 4-0 sweep Portland suffered.

Looking ahead to the future, Nurkic will only be 25 at the start of the 2019-20 season and will still be under contract with the team for three more years at a very reasonable price range. He still has plenty of room to grow and improve his game. If he can return fully healthy and ready to contribute, Portland could be looking at another deep playoff run in the Western Conference.

Over the next couple years, he has a chance to develop into one of the best centers in the league and could even play in a couple of All-Star games if he puts it all together. Nurkic is an ideal fit next to Lillard, McCollum and even Simons, and gives the franchise a go-to guy just in case something ever happens to one of those three guards. Pairing Zach Collins with him down low could give Rip City one of the better young frontcourts in the league for the future.