Has Trendon Watford done enough to start for the Trail Blazers next year?

Trendon Watford, Portland Trail Blazers - Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Trendon Watford, Portland Trail Blazers - Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /
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Trendon Watford, Portland Trail Blazers
Trendon Watford, Portland Trail Blazers – Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports /

Watford simply got better in 2022-23

Watford started 12 games for the Blazers this season with most of those coming during the stretch that Lillard, Simons, Grant, and Nurkic were all shut down due to injuries. During that time, he had more production and impact than he’d had at any other point in his career as a Blazer.

On the season, Watford averaged 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on solid shooting percentages. In the 12 games he started, Watford took his game up a notch, putting up 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists a game.

A lot of the increased production came from his shot-making inside of the arc. Although Watford improved his 3-point shooting this year, he takes a low volume of those types of shots.

Instead, Watford has a plodding mix of crafty finishes and sudden bursts towards the rim, whether in transition or the half court, where he can use his great size and finish over or through the defense:

Watford has a pro-ready frame now, with enough girth and power to bowl through smaller players and the touch to finish inside over outstretched arms. This combination of nimble feet and finishing is something that the Blazers have yearned for, but until this stretch it wasn’t a sure thing that he could contribute that on a consistent level.

Watford also showed some of his versatile passing chops this season, something he had a knack for at LSU but never got to fully explore. He can make good reads out of the short roll with both hands, puts good pace on his skips, and provides the Blazers with a new wrinkle that they can deploy off of the bench.

Overall, Watford didn’t show too much growth in any specific area of his game, but he importantly showed that in a scaled up role, he could continue to make a dent in the defense from 2-point range.

That sort of production was theoretical his rookie year, but after his late stretch this season, it looks much more like something the Blazers can rely on in the future.