The 2023-24 Portland Trail Blazers’ Season Preview
September 7th, 2023
by Alan Lu
There is much uncertainty regarding this year’s Blazers’ team. Over the past two seasons, the Blazers have been consistently disappointing in the Chauncey Billups era, as they have never made it to the playoffs, or even the play-in tournament with him in charge, despite having superstar Damian Lillard on their team.
The Blazers have consistently been one of the toughest, confounding teams to predict in the NBA. One year they’re up, another year they’re down. This turned out to be another one of their vastly disappointing seasons as they struggled to win many games despite having the now apparently disgruntled superstar point guard Damian Lillard, as they still don’t have much help around him, and they also have really struggled to defend as a team.
The Blazers have not made the playoffs or even the play-in tournament for the past two seasons, and their surprising 2019 Western Conference Finals appearance under then-head coach Terry Scotts now seems like a lifetime ago.
(Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Blazer’s Edge)
In the draft, the Blazers were able to get Scoot Henderson with the third overall pick, a very athletic point guard that can really score and make plays, especially on offense, and he could be a future superstar. They also re-signed Jerami Grant to a sizable deal in the offseason. However, Lillard was displeased with his team, and seemingly the general direction that the front office was taking, so he requested a trade. If the Blazers opt to trade him, they will most likely rebuild around Scoot Henderson and plan for the future. If Lillard comes back, the Blazers will try to win, but their vast struggles on the defensive end could make it tough for them to get to the playoffs in the very competitive Western Conference.
Damian Lillard is their long-time superstar point guard, and he has a terrific ability to make shots and plays for his team. He hasn’t had much help over the years, and his teams have missed the playoffs for the past two seasons, but Lillard has been one of the best players both at his position and in the NBA for quite awhile now, and he is an NBA superstar whom the Blazers and their fan base will gladly have back if he decides to suit up to play for them for the 2023-24 season.
The Blazers were able to select Scoot Henderson with the third overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. He is a very athletic point guard that really excels at attacking the hoop to score and get assists on offense, and he can finish with booming dunks in the paint. He is an aggressive playmaker that can control the game, and he has the athleticism to be a plus-level defender for his position. Henderson is one of the best prospects to come out of the 2023 draft class, and he could be a future superstar in this league.
Gary Payton II was expected to be a major addition to their bench after he helped the 2022 Warriors win the championship, and it was thought that he would give them a much needed boost defensively, but he was plagued by injuries in the first half of the season, and after being able to finally suit up and play for them, he was just as quickly traded back to the Warriors.
The Blazers were able to get Cam Reddish at the trade deadline, and he played very well for them, and it seemed like he found a new home in Portland, as he provided them scoring punch as well as a variety of promising skills for them. But they opted not to sign him, and they surprisingly waived Watford after the conclusion of his second season in the NBA.
In this offseason, while the Blazers didn’t let go any players that may move the needle that much in the short term, it was surprising that they chose to let go Reddish and Watford, because they are skilled, versatile young forwards that may have the upside to develop into solid role players in the future. It was also a bit surprising that they waived Greg Brown III midway through the 2022-23 season, but Brown didn’t get much playing time and regressed significantly in his performances as a second-year player last season, and hasn’t quite developed nearly as much as expected.
Henderson and Murray are expected to be key role players, but with Lillard having recently requested a trade, Henderson’s role could hinge on whether or not if Portland decides to trade him or not. If they don’t, Henderson is expected to play a secondary role, as either a complementary starter or as one of the top bench players for this team. If they do trade Lillard, the Blazers could then pivot to building their team around him and Simons. Murray is a polished forward whose solid all-around skills lends well for him onto making their team’s rotation for this year. Rupert is a very athletic, high-upside swingman that will need to improve his jump shot, but his ability to create his own shot and strong defensive skills makes him a player to watch in the future.
Damian Lillard is prepping for “Dame Time,” but it’s a bit uncertain if he’ll play his home games for Portland, as he’s requested a trade in the offseason, although the Blazers don’t really have to trade him if they don’t want to.
(Photo: David Zalubowski/Associated Press, via The Columbian)
Projected Starting Lineup:
Damian Lillard is the quintessential Portland Trail Blazer, especially for the modern era, and while he has requested a trade, Blazer fans will be thrilled if he returns. He is a very skilled, scoring point guard that can make really tough shots effortlessly, and he can carry his team on the back to get wins. Jusuf Nurkic is a skilled, but oft-injured center that can anchor the paint down low. Jerami Grant is an athletic combo forward that can provide scoring and defense. Anfernee Simons is a very athletic combo guard that can make shots, and Matisse Thybulle is a gifted defensive wing that doesn’t need a lot of shots on offense.
Key Bench Players:
Scoot Henderson is a dynamic playmaker whose strong offensive skills and elite athleticism could make him a franchise player in the NBA in the future.
(Photo: John Locher/Associated Press, via New York Post)
The Blazers will have a very young bench, but they have quite a few promising players on their squad. Henderson is a very athletic, skilled point guard that really excels at attacking the hoop to score and get assists on offense, and he has the tools to be a plus-level defender. Sharpe is a very athletic swingman that showed a solid jump shot last year, and could develop into a solid defender. Kris Murray is a fairly polished rookie that has a variety of skills that could allow him to contribute to a rotation. Little is an athletic swingman that has solid defensive skills, and Jabari Walker is an athletic combo forward whose scoring and defensive skills could allow him to be a regular rotation player this year.
G-F Shaedon Sharpe
G-F Nassir Little
The Rest of the Roster:
G-F Rayan Rupert
C Ibou Badji (Two-Way)
F John Butler Jr. (Two-Way)
Others in Camp:
The Blazers have a couple of Exhibit 10 players that are not projected to make the roster, but Detroit-Mercy guard Antoine Davis is a scoring guard whose shot-making skills could allow him to make an NBA regular season roster in the future.
G Antoine Davis (Exhibit 10)
G Malachi Smith (Exhibit 10)
Head coach Chauncey Billups has not had much success with the Portland Trail Blazers, and he has not been able to lead them to the playoffs or to the play-in tournament so far.
(Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Rip City Project)
2022-23: 33-49, missed the playoffs
Career: 60-104, 0-0 in the NBA Playoffs
Even though Billups has been an accomplished player when he was in the NBA, he hasn’t had a great track record in his two seasons as the Blazers’ head coach. Despite having the opportunity to coach one of the game’s best active players in the league in Damian Lillard, the Blazers have not made the playoffs or even reached the play-in tournament under head coach Chauncey Billups.
The Portland Trail Blazers have finished 13th in the West in both of the seasons he’s coached, and the futility of the Blazers recently combined with the turbulent offseason makes it seem like things might not get any better for the Blazers this season.
For the Portland Trail Blazers to have a valid case to keep Damian Lillard around, they’ll need to show him that they can build a winner around him, or they may have to consider tearing their team down to start the rebuilding process and focus building their team around Scoot Henderson instead.
(Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Blazer’s Edge)
The Portland Trail Blazers will be hoping that Damian Lillard will come back and return to play for them for the 2023-24 season, but they haven’t been very good recently, even with him around. Ever since they decided to fire Scotts, the Blazers have not been nearly as competitive since. Some of this falls onto their general manager Joe Cronin for their poor roster construction and lack of defensive talent around him, but it also partly falls onto head coach Chauncey Billups, who just hasn’t been able to get very much out of this roster in the two seasons he’s coached them.
The Blazers will need to show signs that they can turn things around and create positive momentum for the better, but in a very competitive league and as they face such stiff competition out in the West, even as they have added Scoot Henderson, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Portland will suddenly revert back to the playoff team that they were when Lillard was coached by Scotts seasons ago.
Projected 2023-24 Finish:
Projected Regular Season Finish: 14th in the Western Conference
Expected Playoff Finish: Projected to miss the playoffs
2023-24 Preseason NBA Power Ranking: 27
I went to Basketball-Reference and No-Trade Clause to look up some information for this write-up. It will be an exciting basketball season this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing the in-season tournament to see how that will unfold. Anyways, that is my write-up on my preview of the 2023-24 Portland Trail Blazers. Thanks for reading.