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Portland’s luxury tax bill expected to go down by $3.2 million due to Jusuf Nurkic injury

The Portland Trail Blazes would much rather have Jusuf Nurkic for the entirety of the 2019-20 season. But considering he’s unlikely to play until after the All-Star break due to a devastating leg injury suffered last March, the Blazers are undoubtedly pleased to at least glean something positive from his absence.

As noted by team beat writer Casey Holdahl, Portland’s luxury-tax bill will be cut by $3.2 million midway through this season because Nurkic will be unable to reach certain incentives in his contract related to number of games played. The sixth-year pro won’t receive the $1.25 million bonus he did last season because he will not have played at least 70 regular season games, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Consequently, Portland’s tax bill will dip from $22.2 million to $19 million in late November.

Nurkic suffered multiple fractures in his left leg late in a double-overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in March. He was further staking his claim as one of the league’s most underrated and most improved players before going down, dropping 32 points, 21 rebounds, and four blocks on Steven Adams and the Thunder.

The 25-year-old made major strides as a finisher and high-post playmaker last season while remaining a rim-protecting and rebounding stalwart. He averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game, all career-bests, and became the first player in league history to score 20 points and grab 20 rebounds while also accruing five assists, five steals, and five blocks.

Portland acquired former Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside in a trade this summer, and will also use veteran free-agent addition Pau Gasol to help replace Jusuf Nurkic until he returns next year.