The Portland Trail Blazers are officially and mercifully halfway through the 2022-23 season, so it’s time to hand out our first semester grades
After last night’s blowout loss in Denver, the Portland Trail Blazers sit 10th in the Western Conference at 16-25. Damian Lillard will likely miss the rest of the season after abdominal surgery, and injuries and COVID have forced the use of 13 different lineups in the last 20 games.
So while we will try and grade everyone on an appropriate curve, the truth is that this season has been a massive disappointment for Blazer team personnel and fans alike, so the grades are going to reflect that.
Damian Lillard: C-
The Blazers’ best player for the last decade, Lillard was clearly not himself this season. Now at least we know why. Hopefully he can get some rest and forget this season ever happened.
CJ McCollum: B+
McCollum carried the Blazers through a reasonably competitive first quarter but his lung cost him 16 games and counting. He and his wife, Dr. Elise Esposito, added a player to their family roster yesterday.
Powell has been the most consistent Blazer with career high averages of 18.6 points and 2.1 assists per game.
Covington still thinks the floor inside the 3-point line is lava, but has shown more energy in the last two weeks after a slow start. Maybe he was the last to realize he’s on an expiring contract.
Jusuf Nurkic: B
Also a slow starter this year, Nurkic has stepped up in the absence of the Blazers’ two top scorers. He’s also playing for his next contract.
Anfernee Simons: A+
The soon-to-be restricted free agent has broken out with 14.1 points in a little more than 26 minutes per game, hitting nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. The most watchable Blazer this year.
Nassir Little: A+
Little has also been spectacular given additional playing time. If every Blazer played every minute with Little’s energy, they would be 15 games over .500.
Larry Nance, Jr.: B
Nance has been bounced from the bench to the starting lineup to the COVID list and back again, but is a rare defensive bright spot for Portland.
Dennis Smith, Jr: C-
Smith has had a couple moments of brilliance, but has mostly been a COVID fill-in or garbage time player for Portland, mostly because of the play of:
Ben McLemore: A
McLemore has been the third pleasant surprise of the season, averaging 23.5 points in the four games he’s played more than 26 minutes.
Tony Snell: B-
Like Smith, Snell has been used only in spots and hasn’t really done much to distinguish himself in either direction. And like Smith, he may benefit from more playing time.
Cody Zeller: B-
The oft-injured big man has played in just 27 games this year but has been a reliable rebounder off the bench.
Trendon Watford: B
Watford has played in every game in January after seeing the court for just 44 minutes prior to the new year. He’s averaging 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes this month.
CJ Elleby: D
He’s demonstrating to all of us that he is destined for a great career in Europe or China.
Keljin Blevins: D
Can’t crack the lineup except for garbage time, even with COVID ripping through the locker room.
Greg Brown: A++++
FREE GREG BROWN! I am genuinely puzzled as to why he’s not playing 25 minutes a night. Every time he steps on the court he does something remarkable, yet he only seems to see action in the final minutes of the biggest blowouts.
The 10-day crew: B+
Reggie Perry and Cameron McGriff had some moments in their brief tenures with the team. Jarron Cumberland and Brandon Williams didn’t see the court as much but didn’t do anything terribly wrong either.
Chauncey Billups: C
Billups doesn’t seem to have a defensive system in place or a handle on his rotation, but he does have an even keel and the support of his best player. Room to improve, but still a rookie.
Team grade: D
After reflecting on the first half, it’s becoming clearer that we all probably should have studied more. Here’s hoping the second semester either brings a miraculous revival or a collapse thorough enough to land one of the top three picks in this year’s draft.