3. Winning may take time, but the Trail Blazers’ future looks bright
Although Portland’s roster will require time before contention is viable, 2023 NBA Summer League should have provided Blazer fans with hope that a promising future awaits after an inevitable Lillard trade.
The team’s post-Lillard future revolves around Henderson and Sharpe. One half of basketball from Henderson was enough to show that the two players could make for one of the most dynamic backcourts in basketball. Henderson and Sharpe already possess elite-level athleticism, which, paired with intriguing skill sets, equips the duo with star-level potential.
Unlike the Lillard-CJ McCollum pairing, length and athleticism are strengths of a Scoot-Shaedon backcourt, which might afford the latter a bit more two-way upside. Growing pains are inevitable, but watching Henderson and Sharpe develop some synergy will be exciting.
As for the rest of Portland’s roster, the Blazers’ young players may face current limitations, but they fit into archetypes that are necessary for winning in the modern NBA.
Walker profiles as a stretch four with some potential as a secondary creator. Murray and Rupert fit the three-and-D mold that all contenders need. Badji’s physical profile gives him intriguing upside as a rim protector. Butler Jr.’s skill set as a stretch big has the potential to mesh nicely with Henderson, a guard who lives more in the paint.
A Lillard trade would likely bolster the Blazers’ young talent base with more prospects. The Miami Heat, Lillard’s preferred team, have a trio of prospects—Jaime Jaquez Jr., Nikola Jovic, and Orlando Robinson—who performed well in summer league and would add to the versatility of the Blazers’ youth movement.
If Lillard making the calculus that Portland’s young roster getting even younger would prolong the team’s path to winning is what led to his trade request, he was likely right; but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to watch a young core develop as a new era commences for the Blazers.