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Klee blog: Nuggets trade Jusuf Nurkic, officially enter Nikola Jokic era

By: Paul Klee
February 12, 2017 Updated: February 13, 2017 at 9:52 am
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photo - Portland Trail Blazers forward Mason Plumlee, left, intercepts a pass to Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Portland Trail Blazers forward Mason Plumlee, left, intercepts a pass to Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

In shipping center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland in exchange for center Mason Plumlee on Sunday, the Nuggets made their first big-boy step into the Nikola Jokic era.

In doing so, the Nuggets delivered a clear message: It's the Joker's world now.

Denver is going to revel in it.

Hesitant at first to part with a 22-year-old, former first-round pick like Nurkic because of the untapped talent they believe he possesses and what he could become down the road, the Nuggets are trusting their eyes and their instincts. Jokic is a generational talent who is changing everything. They will build around him.

The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the deal on Sunday.

Chalk this up as another heady move by general manager Tim Connelly and his merry band of talent evaluators. Though it's fair to wonder if the new Nuggets can stop a parked car on defense, they are content for the time being to construct an offensive juggernaut. Plumlee, who is 26 and only in his third season, is one of the best passers among NBA big men. And the league has never seen a passer like Jokic. Denver's scorers must keep their hands up and their heads on a swivel.

The Nuggets also sent a 2017 first-round pick to Portland, while the Blazers sent a second-rounder to Denver. What does the move say about the Nuggets' mindset?

Whenever there's a deal on the table, the first question will be how it complements Jokic, the 21-year-old prodigy from Serbia. That's what teams with superstars do. Now the Nuggets are operating like one.

Denver's front office didn't believe it could land Plumlee in the offseason, so it made a move to score him now. Plumlee is 6-11, 255 pounds and is averaging 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Blazers, who are in a neck-and-neck battle with the Nuggets for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Perhaps the only way Plumlee would be a better fit in Denver is if he had been born in a small town in eastern Europe. It's a risky move to send Nurkic to a division rival like Portland. But it wasn't working with Jokic and Nurkic, and that breaks the No. 1 rule of the new Nuggets: How does it fit with the Joker?

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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