NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers Undergo Major Revamp

Portland Trail Blazers NBA Preview 2023 2024

For the next month, our editorial team will be delving into the 30 teams of the American premier basketball league. Our journey takes us to Oregon for an exclusive preview of the Portland Trail Blazers, who have recently parted ways with Damian Lillard.

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A Disappointing Season Last Year

Despite a strong start to the competition, during which the Blazers led the Western Conference, Chauncey Billups’ team quickly found themselves disillusioned. The primary culprit was a string of injuries, especially those suffered by Damian Lillard, who only participated in 58 games in the 2022-2023 season. The Blazers’ iconic point guard, however, averaged an impressive 32 points per game, a career-high for him. Unfortunately, this effort was not enough to secure a higher position than the disappointing 13th place in the Western Conference, with 33 wins and 49 losses. It’s worth noting that Portland’s defense has been a significant issue for several years, particularly in the interior. Jusuf Nurkic’s performance has been lackluster, and his substitutes haven’t fared much better, providing open lanes for opposing attackers.

Blazers’ Management Shift

To the dismay of Lillard (a pun entirely unintended), the Blazers’ management began making significant changes mid-season, trading experienced players for draft picks and young talent. Players like Josh Hart and Gary Payton II were casualties of these moves, ultimately enabling Portland to secure the 3rd overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Is this the perfect opportunity to turn the page on the Lillard era and find a new franchise player? We’ll discuss this in the upcoming sections.

Offseason Moves:

Departures

  • Damian Lillard (Bucks)
  • Jusuf Nurkic (Suns)
  • Nassir Little (Suns)
  • Keon Johnson (Suns)
  • Cam Reddish (Lakers)
  • Drew Eubanks (Suns)
  • Trendon Watford (Free Agent)
  • Ryan Arcidiacono (Free Agent)
  • Skylar Mays (Free Agent)
  • Jeenathan Williams (Free Agent)
  • Chance Comanche (Free Agent)
  • Greg Brown III (Mavericks)
  • Justise Winslow (Free Agent)

Extensions

  • Jerami Grant
  • Matisse Thybulle
  • Kevin Knox
  • John Butler (Two-Way)

Arrivals

  • Scoot Henderson (3rd overall pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • Kris Murray (23rd overall pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • Rayan Rupert (43rd overall pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • Robert Williams III (Celtics)
  • Malcolm Brogdon (Celtics)
  • De’Andre Ayton (Suns)
  • Toumani Camara (Suns)
  • Moses Brown (Nets)
  • Ibou Badji (Free Agent, Two-Way)
  • Skylar Mays (Two-Way)

The starting five for the Portland Trail Blazers

Scoot Henderson – Anfernee Simons – Matisse Thybulle – Jerami Grant – De’Andre Ayton.

Bench rotation

  • Point Guards: Malcolm Brogdon, Skylar Mays (two-way contract).
  • Shooting Guards: Shaedon Sharpe, Rayan Rupert.
  • Small Forwards: Kevin Knox.
  • Power Forwards: Jabari Walker, Kris Murray, Toumani Camara.
  • Centers: Robert Williams III, Moses Brown, John Butler (two-way contract), Ibou Badji (two-way contract).

Weaknesses/Strengths Analysis

Weaknesses

The Portland Trail Blazers’ thin rotation, particularly on the wings, is a notable concern. However, this situation presents an opportunity for our French talent, Rayan Rupert, who might see some playing time at the 2-3 positions, at least until the roster undergoes changes. Following the trades of Damian Lillard and later Jrue Holiday, some of the weaknesses we highlighted have faded, and the Blazers’ roster has become quite intriguing. There are still players with significant market value who could be potential trade assets, including Jerami Grant, Robert Williams III, and Malcolm Brogdon.

Strengths

The team boasts a trio of highly offensive perimeter players who promise to be a source of excitement for Portland Trail Blazers fans. Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, and Anfernee Simons are brimming with talent and are set to light up Oregon throughout the season, providing a silver lining to what appears to be a modest win-loss record. The selections of Kris Murray, the twin brother of the blossoming Keegan who made a name for himself with the Kings, and Rayan Rupert are excellent additions aimed at shoring up a defensive unit that has struggled. With the addition of promising talents like Keon Johnson, Toumani Camara, and Jabari Walker, Chauncey Billups has a pool of potential to work with; it remains to be seen if he can harness their development. Furthermore, the arrivals of De’Andre Ayton and Robert Williams III will significantly bolster a center position that has been ailing for several years.

Player to Watch: Anfernee Simons

There are so many players to keep an eye on this season for the Portland Trail Blazers! One burning question that deserves our full attention is who will emerge as the future franchise player for this team: Scoot Henderson or Shaedon Sharpe? Both players have compelling arguments and undeniable qualities, to the point that we tend to forget about a third player in the equation: Anfernee Simons. The combo guard is coming off his 5th NBA season, averaging 21 points in 35 minutes per game, making him the team’s leading scorer in this regard. With the departure of Lillard, Anfernee will also have his chance to step up and become the leader of the Blazers.

Perhaps his lack of defensive potential compared to Scoot and Shaedon, who are not specialists either but possess athletic abilities that can help them on the defensive end, might be a concern. It remains to be seen whether all three players will be on the court together or if Matisse Thybulle will take the starting small forward spot, allowing Simons or Sharpe to be a valuable sixth man. There’s also the possibility of testing Anfernee’s trade value, as anything is possible for a franchise in rebuild mode. If Billups’ top priority is to develop a solid defense and Simons ends up on the bench, a mid-season trade to acquire a promising center or draft picks cannot be ruled out.

Season Prediction: 14th in the Western Conference

With an overall roster weaker than last season, which concluded with a 13th-place finish in the Western Conference, and the departure of an iconic player, this 2023-2024 season is shaping up to be less victorious. The franchise is likely to find itself near the bottom of the standings right from the early weeks of the competition.

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