Toronto Raptors free agent profile: Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic

PORTLAND, OREGON - NOVEMBER 15: Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OREGON - NOVEMBER 15: Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors‘ fanbase clamored for more interior rebounding all season long, as their inability to match up against more physical and tall lineups handicapped them against elite teams. If the Portland Trail Blazers start to tear it down, Jusuf Nurkic would make a ton of sense.

Nurkic has spent the last 5.5 seasons as one of the critical members of a Portland franchise that was consistently a threat to let some sparks fly in the postseason. Unfortunately for the Blazers, last year’s nightmare season could be a sign that this franchise is eyeing a more extended rebuild.

Nurkic would immediately be one of the best centers on the market thanks to his pedigree and post play. Toronto has a solid amount of cap space to play with, meaning that Masai Ujrii could look to add Nurkic in the name of improving their lackluster frontcourt depth.

While his style of play isn’t that conducive to Toronto’s dogma that preaches versatility on defense, Nurkic is without question an elite rebounder and an imposing physical presence. He could give the Raptors some truly elite center play for the first time since their Conference Semifinal bubble season.

Will the Toronto Raptors pursue Jusuf Nurkic?

The Bosnian big man averaged 15.0 points and a career-high 11.1 rebounds per game. This is the third season out of the last four in which Nurkic averaged a double-double. Raptors fans clamoring for an imposing presence in the paint would have their thirst quenched if Nurkic signs.

The idea of moving Gary Trent Jr. to the bench and making him a star Sixth man in the Lou Williams mold could have some appeal for Toronto, but they need a player of Nurkic’s skill level inside to make it work.

With enough thunder down low to consistently top double-digits without demanding the ball or initiating the offense through him, Jurkic should be able to be productive enough in Canada to justify a nice eight-figure deal that puts Toronto right on the edge of the luxury tax.

Not only is Nurkic an ineffective defender when compared to some of the other bigs on the market, but he is a significant injury risk. Nurkic has played in just 101 games over the last three seasons. Foot and leg injuries on a body that big might make him less valuable despite the fact he’s just 28.

Nurkic would be a bit unusual as a Raptors signing, as they would likely be unable to bring back Chris Boucher and Thad Young. If Ujiri can trust in the current infrastructure enough to sign Nurkic (and provided he is in good physical shape), Toronto could steal a starter this offseason.

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