It’s going to be a high-scoring but rough couple of months in Portland.
Jusuf Nurkic — the team’s center and an anchor of their defense — fractured his wrist in a fall Thursday night against Indiana and that is going to require surgery, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. Nurkic is expected to miss eight weeks.
Nurkic having surgery is a real blow to Portland, who is 7-5 and sitting as the sixth seed in a deep West — they need to find a way to keep their heads above water while he is gone. The Trail Blazers will lean on Enes Kanter and Harry Giles — the two centers on the roster — and could try to get a remaining veteran free agent big for the minimum (Tyson Chandler, John Henson, Kyle O’Quinn, and others are available, but the Trail Blazers are flirting with the luxury tax line so they will not want to spend a lot). A trade is not out of the question, either.
Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have a comfort level with Nurkic — a sharp-passing big man — and know how to play off him and use his strong screens. Nurkick can roll, but the important thing is he keeps the ball and the offense moving when he gets it — he is averaging 10.3 points and 7.6 rebounds a game this season.
The bigger challenge is the defensive end, where Nurkic is the team’s anchor and critical to their plans — Portland is 4.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court this season. Kanter is a massive downgrade on defense; Giles is not a whole lot better.
If the Trail Blazers defense fades, more pressure will fall on the league’s best backcourt to outscore teams.