The Portland Trail Blazers have missed the playoffs for the second straight year, which could mean massive changes for them in the offseason if they want to keep superstar Damian Lillard happy. One of those changes could be their starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, who is on a questionable contract despite being a capable player. Nurkic has three years and $54.2M remaining on his contract, and while the salary cap will rise to help offset it, it seems clear that Portland wouldn't mind moving him. That may be rearranging chairs on the Titanic, but trading him could open up different possibilities, and the Spurs would be the perfect trade partners.
Why? Because the Spurs have a younger, cheaper, starting-caliber center that could replace Nurkic and save them money. Zach Collins has emerged following the Jakob Poeltl trade, averaging 16.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks since the trade deadline. The Blazers also drafted Collins, and he spent his first four seasons in Portland before signing with the Spurs. How ironic would it be for San Antonio to sign Zach and trade him back to the Blazers for a first-round pick? The answer is very, and it could happen.
Portland will likely go all-in this summer to build around Lillard, and they will have a top-six pick in this year's draft. If they were to make this trade and return to the playoffs, their 2024 draft pick would go to the Spurs. On the other hand, if they fail to make the postseason and Lillard wants out next summer, they would be off the hook from having to pay Nurkic and have some pick protections in place. For San Antonio, there is a decent chance this pick will convey, and considering Collins is an unrestricted free agent after next season, getting something in return for him makes sense.