DENVER — The Denver Nuggets had high hopes of playing their two young centers side by side this season.
It was an experiment that never quite panned out, making Jusuf Nurkic expendable.
The Nuggets dealt the bruising big man known as the “Bosnian Beast” to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday for center Mason Plumlee, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the trade has not been announced.
The Vertical first reported the deal. The Nuggets also receive a second-round pick and cash, while the Blazers get a first-rounder.
Portland now has three first-round draft picks for 2017.
Heading into the season, Denver’s plan was to incorporate Nikola Jokic and Nurkic into the starting lineup. It would be a way to distinguish Denver in a copycat league where teams are trying to be fast-paced and free-shooting like the Golden State Warriors.
Only, the bigger lineup didn’t always work the way the Nuggets envisioned.
With more and more explosive games from Jokic, the 22-year-old Nurkic wasn’t always getting the playing time he expected. Nurkic averaged eight points this season.
He’s still relatively new to the game, not even taking up basketball until he was 14. Nurkic showed glimpses of his talent this season, though, scoring a career-high 23 points at New Orleans on Oct. 26. He grabbed a career-best 18 rebounds at Toronto five days later.
In Portland, Nurkic will be surrounded by sharp-shooters such as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Blazers sit a game behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Before leaving town, Nurkic posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts: “Thanks to the opportunities you have given me in the Denver Nuggets. Former teammates, fans and the club I wish all the best. Now it’s time for new challenges!”
He closed his post with the hashtag, “RipCity.”
Nurkic was taken with the 16th overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2014 but was immediately sent to Denver in a draft-night deal. He was hampered last season by a knee injury.
The 26-year-old Plumlee figures to be the perfect backup for Jokic. Both are among the best passing centers in the league.
Plumlee averaged 11.1 points and four assists this season for Portland. He becomes a restricted free agent after the season.
The former Duke standout was a first-round pick by Brooklyn in 2013, before being dealt to Portland two years later.
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.