Damian Lillard led the Portland Trail Blazers in minutes last season, averaging 36.3. He also led the team in points per game, assists per game and turnovers (which makes sense as he also led the team in usage rate).
It’ll be a much different season this year in Portland with Lillard likely heading out the door at some point. Who will take over Dame’s spot as the team’s leading scorer? Who will lead the Blazers in assists? Will the team ever sign another center who could challenge Jusuf Nurkic as Portland’s leader in the big man categories?
Without Lillard for the 2023-24 campaign, who will lead the Blazers in the most influential statistical categories?
Who will pack the Trail Blazers stat sheets next season?
For this exercise, we’ll ignore advanced stats like RAPTOR and go with most of the traditional counting stats: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage and usage rate.
Some of these may seem obvious, others may come as a surprise.
Important note: These are based on the Portland Trail Blazers roster as of July 28, 2023.
Predicted Trail Blazers leader in usage rate in 2023-24
Lillard led the team in usage rate by a mile last season at 33.1 percent. Anfernee Simons was next at 24.7 and Jerami Grant was third at 22.7.
With Dame gone, the natural successor seems to be Simons. He would be the team’s best offensive player and should have the ball in his hands the most. Rookie Scoot Henderson will get his touches, as will Grant and Shaedon Sharpe, but they won’t – and shouldn’t – be counted on as a scorer like Simons will.
Verdict: Anfernee Simons
Predicted Trail Blazers leader in 3-point percentage in 2023-24
Grant led Portland in 3-point percentage (40.1) for any player who played more than 15 games last year with a career-high 40.1 percent. If he can approach that again this season, the Blazers won’t have as many regrets handing him $160 million over five years.
Matisse Thybulle also shot a career-high from deep at 38.8 percent, which was a pleasant surprise after he arrived from Philadelphia at the trade deadline. He also averaged 3.9 attempts – his previous career high was 2.4.
Simons shot 37.7 percent on 9.1 attempts a night, while Lillard connected from deep at a 37.1 percent clip on a wild 11.3 attempts per game.
This one may perhaps come down to volume more than accuracy. As Simons’ usage rate increases, his 3-point attempts may as well, which will drag his percentage down. Grant hitting better than 40 percent and averaging almost 6 attempts is a career aberration; his previous high was 39.2 percent on 3.7 attempts.
Verdict: This one’s a toss-up, but it may be Grant based on a lower volume.
Portland Trail Blazers leader in field-goal percentage in 2023-24
This stat is usually a little misleading and often goes to a big guy who doesn’t shoot much from outside 5 feet, or much at all. Drew Eubanks led the team last season, for example, while Trendon Watford was second.
So we’ll put a qualifier on it: The player must play at least 15 minutes a night, at least 40 games in the season and average at least 7 field-goal attempts per. Last year, that would’ve made Nurkic the team’s leader.
It’s safe to go in that direction again. Grant, Simons and Sharpe will likely take too many shots to be this efficient. Don’t sleep on Jabari Walker in this category, though, if he gets enough run.
Portland Trail Blazers leader in blocks in 2023-24
Eubanks also led this category last season (1.4), but he left for greener pastures in Phoenix. Nurkic, Grant and Thybulle each averaged 0.8.
The safe call here would be Nurkic based on his size and presence at the rim, but it’s hard to bet on the 28-year-old staying healthy for more than 50 games a season at this point. Based on expected playing time, availability and defensive skill, this one comes down to either Grant or Thybulle with Sharpe being a sleeper.
Predicted Trail Blazers leader in steals in 2023-24
Thybulle averaged 1.7 steals after joining Portland and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Henderson might be second on the team as a rookie, but this one’s easy.
Predicted Trail Blazers leader in assists in 2023-24
Simons developed as a playmaker last season and jumped from 1.4 apg in 2021-22 to 4.1 last year. As he takes the reigns from Lillard in usage rate, that number should go up again.
But Ant should see plenty of time off the ball next year – like he did last season – as Henderson becomes the Blazers’ main point guard. And as an unselfish player quick enough to blow by defenders and draw attention in the paint, Scoot should rack up dimes kicking out to players like Simons and Grant for open looks.
Predicted Trail Blazers leader in rebounds in 2023-24
Nurkic was the only player on the roster taller than 6-foot-9 for almost all of last season and led the team with 9.1 rpg. Josh Hart (traded to New York at the trade deadline) and Eubanks were second and third, respectively.
Ibou Badji (7-foot-1) is healthy after missing last year with a knee injury, and he and John Butler Jr. (7-feet) are back with the Blazers on two-way deals.
Until Portland signs another center (if they do), this one’s easy by default.
Predicted Trail Blazers leader in points in 2023-24
Now for the big question: Who will lead the Blazers in scoring with Lillard either out the door by the start of the season or soon thereafter?
The easy answer would be Simons, who was second on the team at 21.1 ppg last year, but Grant wasn’t far behind at 20.5.
The other options here are Scoot and Sharpe, but will they be featured enough as scorers? They’ll likely have the ball in their hands quite a bit, but are they ready to lead an NBA team in this department?
This one has to go to Simons. If he stays healthy, he’ll be in the conversation for an all-star berth and possibly the NBA Most Improved Player Award. Ant is poised for a major breakout season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he approaches 30 ppg in 2023-24.