Last season, did not go the way the Portland Trail Blazers planned for it to go.
In the hopes of quickly rebuilding, the Portland Trail Blazers made a lot of changes. From Chauncey Billups being a first-year head coach to Joe Cronin being named the Blazers GM, to CJ McCollum being traded the Blazers went under a lot of leadership changes alone. Which from the looks of it will make the Blazers more exciting in 2022-23. Joe Cronin was named the full-time general manager after Neil Olshey was fired due to workplace misconduct. Damian Lillard looks healthy and is fresh off a new contract extension. He is “all-in” with the Trail Blazers right now and the team’s front office has made the necessary moves to help Lillard find success on the floor.
Shaedon Sharpe (7) and Jabari Walker (57)
After an injury-plagued season, the Blazers played into a top 10 pick. (They would have had two, but more on that later) While they would have liked to have a much higher pick, the Blazers were able to land Sharpe with the seventh overall pick, the highest they’ve had since 2012, when they drafted Lillard. Sharpe was projected to be the number one overall pick in the 2023 draft had he gone back to college. His pro player comparison is a Paul George, Jalen Green, J.R. Smith, or Brandon Roy type player. Though there is no real way to judge what he might be, as he didn’t play against high-level competition.
Walker is a name that might be recognized by the Rip City faithful. He played in the Pac-12 against both the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers. According to the NBA Draft Room, he was a middle-of-the-pack SF, ranked 16th best. Walker saw a significant jump in playing time, points, and rebounds from his freshman to sophomore year. On the offensive side of the ball, he is an undersized four who create mismatches with his versatility. In his freshman season, he was a 50/50/78 percent shooter, but those percentages dropped to 46/35/78 making the jump into his sophomore year. He’s a high-energy payer that will provide anything the coaches ask of him. He’s projected to be a poor man’s Pascal Siakam or a Jonas Jerebko-type player.
Gary Payton II
Payton is a player that has ties to the Northwest. His father Gary Payton played in Seattle for 12 and 1/2 seasons, and Payton continued his education after high school at Oregon State. Just like his father Payton II is a lockdown defender, who had a breakout year last season with the Golden State Warriors. He averaged seven points, three rebounds, and more than a steal per game. Payton played a key role in the Warriors’ title run last season and signed a three-year, $26.1 million deal with the Blazers. He recently underwent the same surgery that Lillard did last season, and is expected to be ready to go by the start of the season. He may provide the Portland Trail Blazers with a defensive guard that the Blazers roster has been missing for years.
Eubanks came to the Blazers last season and proved he could be a key piece to rebuilding the Blazers team. Being just 25 years old, he could be part of the Blazers roster for years to come. In 22 games, he averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Here in the new season, he will see a significant drop in playing time with Jusuf Nurkic back healthy. Look for the Troutdale-raised talent to come off the bench behind Nurkic, providing key minutes off the bench.
Remember how before, I had mentioned the Blazers could have had a second first-round pick if the Pelicans missed the playoffs? Well with the Pelicans making the playoffs that pick turned into a Milwaukee 2025 first-rounder. Joe Cronin flipped that pick for Jerami Grant. It was a trade that would bring Grant back to his roots, the same city that he was born in while his dad, Harvey Grant played.
Blazers receive: Jerami Grant and draft rights to Ismael Kamagate
Pistons receive draft rights to Gabriele Procida, 2025 first-round pick (via Milwaukee), a 2025 second-round pick, and a 2026 second-round pick.
The chemistry with Grant joining already seems to be significant. The team leaders seem to be ecstatic about the local product coming home. Grant coming in will provide the Blazers with something they haven’t had since the early days of Damian Lillard’s career, a true power forward, who can occasionally step out on the three-point line but most importantly play physical down-low alongside Nurkic.
Key Losses: CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Norman Powell, and Robert Covington
As the Blazers began to rebuild, the best thing to do was break up Lillard and McCollum, the longtime backcourt who led the Blazers to the Western Conference Finals in 2019. Though it become the end of an era. The Blazers already partially ended the era when Terry Stotts was fired, and Neil Olshey was let go. The trades that the Blazers made last year freed up some cap space. Now as they head into a brand new season without those names on the roster, they have to find replacements and fill the voids.
McCollum’s production will be replaced by Anfernee Simons. Josh Hart and Payton will take over for Powell, and Grant will replace Covington.
Portland Trail Blazers Rotation and Depth
PG: Damian Lillard, Gary Payton II, Brandon Williams
SG: Anfernee Simons, Keon Johnson, Shaedon Sharpe
SF: Josh Hart, Nassir Little, Justise Winslow
PF: Jerami Grant, Trendon Watford, Greg Brown III, Jabari Walker
C: Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks
The starting group with this squad may be easy to figure out, but how the rotation pans out may be difficult and will be all up to Coach Billups. Last year, the young talent proved that they belong in an NBA rotation.
- October 3rd – @LA Clippers – 7PM PST – Climate Pledge Arena (Seattle, WA)
- October 4th – vs Utah -7PM PST – Moda Center
- October 6th – vs. Maccabi Raanana – 7PM PST – Moda Center
- October 9th – @Sacramento – 6PM PST – Golden 1 Center
- October 11th – @Golden State – 7PM PST – Oracle Arena
The NBA schedule is already out, and the Portland Trail Blazers are looking to make the playoffs after a one-year turnaround. There are a few key dates on the schedule this year, but the biggest games will be on November 10th and March 1st, when CJ and the New Orleans Pelicans play against the Blazers. The latter is when he will return to Portland. Many analysts and sports betting companies have the Blazers missing the playoffs again. There are some questions facing this team that will be answered throughout the season: Will Anferee Simons become a 20-point scorer? Will Damian Lillard return to MVP Candidacy? The answers will be told at the end of the season but the Portland Trail Blazers should at least make the play-in.
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