In the Secure Remote Password Protocol, the verifier must be stored on the server. In the case of a server compromise, an attacker could obtain these verifiers. If nobody reused passwords, this wouldn't be a big deal (as the users' data is probably also compromised). However since people do reuse passwords it seems a good idea to make offline attacks against the password file difficult.
SRP is based off of a cryptographic hash H; part of the cost of an offline attack would be calculating H, so using an expensive hash for this step seems good. However, I am unsure of the suitability of tunably expensive hashing mechanisms (e.g. PBKDF2, bcrypt, scrypt) for this.