It could have been a Damian Lillard blockbuster that shook the NBA landscape. Or it could have been a stunning draft-night trade featuring the No. 3 overall pick. Or it could have even been an Amen Thompson-shocker, at one point. Instead, the Portland Trail Blazers 2023 NBA Draft was mostly newsworthy because of its, well, lack of news.
The most significant occurrence of the night came in the draft’s opening minutes after the sports world’s love affair with Victor Wembanyama subsided (temporarily). The Charlotte Hornets made the decision to select Alabama forward Brandon Miller with the second pick, which meant G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson was available for Portland to select at No. 3.
They made the pick.
Then they made two more of them – Iowa forward Kris Murray and French wing Rayan Rupert.
Then everyone went home.
It was a successful, logical, drama-free night. It’ll be interesting to see how long Portland’s offseason stays that way.
Winners and losers of the Trail Blazers 2023 NBA Draft
Winner: Scoot Henderson
Scoot might have enough money now to make himself another suit or two. That’s a win for everybody.
The second best prospect in the 2023 draft class slipped one spot but landed in Portland, which is a win for Henderson. He’ll arrive in Rip City prepared to learn from a future Hall of Fame point guard in Lillard and an NBA Title-winning point guard and Finals MVP in head coach Chauncey Billups.
There’s also a decent chance he comes off the bench if Dame is still around, which means he can pop in for 20 to 25 minutes a night, get Moda Center rocking with some explosive plays, score 15 points and dish out a few assists, and learn the NBA game – much like Shaedon Sharpe did as a rookie.
Or, if Portland does decide to reset and trade Lillard, he becomes the new face of the Blazers franchise. If you couldn’t tell from this, Scoot doesn’t seem to mind when all eyes are on him, so it’s a win-win:
Loser: Anfernee Simons’ future in Portland
Unless Lillard walks into general manager Joe Cronin’s office and asks to be traded, he’s not going anywhere. Dame controls his own future in Portland, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The same can’t be said for Simons.
In the leadup to the draft, the general consensus was that the Blazers were looking to find a trade involving Simons and a draft pick to bring a star to Portland, and that if Scoot was the pick at No. 3, Simons could cement himself on that block as the odd man out in the Trail Blazers’ backcourt.
Considering how things played out on draft night, there’s a pretty solid chance the 24-year-old guard sees his name show up in even more rumors and finds himself wearing another jersey at the start of next season.
Winner: Shaedon Sharpe
Sharpe and Scoot will form perhaps the most athletic backcourt in the NBA as soon as they step on the floor together. Whether that’s as eventual starters next season if Portland rebuilds or if they come off the bench as a wickedly potent one-two punch offensively, it’s going to be exciting.
Sharpe led a rag-tag group as the Blazers’ top offensive option at the end of last season, and he proved capable. He’s likely in for a more significant role during his sophomore campaign in Portland, but instead of replacing either Lillard or Simons on the floor, he could play alongside both. Or he could play alongside Lillard and Henderson. Or Henderson and Simons.
Sharpe should be excited for himself, but Blazers fans should also be excited to see what he can do with this type of firepower around him.
Winner: Blazers fans
Whatever happens – if Lillard is traded and the team starts from scratch, if Henderson is flipped elsewhere for another star, or if the two will be playing together – things are about to change. For a fan base that’s been pleading for anything other than the status quo since Dame arrived in Portland, here it is.