4 Trail Blazers with something to prove heading toward training camp

Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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The Portland Trail Blazers will gather for training camp in about a month. Whether Damian Lillard is still on the roster at that point or not, the 2023-24 season should look drastically different than the past few years.

With Lillard at the helm, the goal was at least a playoff berth, if not a real postseason run. It’s arguable if that goal was realistic, but it was the plan nonetheless.

But with rookie point guard Scoot Henderson taking over, second-year guard Shaedon Sharpe ready for more minutes and the primary scorer role being handed to Anfernee Simons, it’s fair to expect a youth movement with some growing pains this year.

And with the change in approach from championship idealism to developmental patience, a few members of Portland’s organization should be heading toward camp this fall with added motivation.

Trail Blazers with something to prove during 2023 training camp

Player No. 1: Nassir Little

This may be a make-or-break season for Little. The 25th overall pick in the 2019 draft has shown glimpses of what he can be – an athletic three-and-D wing capable of developing into an NBA-level starter. So far, though, those glimpses are all he’s shown.

Nas has played more than 48 games in a season just once in his four years in the league. That was last year, when he played in 54 contests before being shut down with a core injury in April, but his role had diminished even before that. After starting 23 games and averaging nearly 26 minutes in 2021-22, Little started just four times last year and played 18 minutes a night.

His production dipped across the board. He averaged just 6.6 points and 2.6 rebounds on 44.2 percent shooting, although his 3-point percentage did rise from 33.1 percent to 36.7 percent, albeit on fewer attempts (2.9 per game).

But with Sharpe likely soaking up more minutes on the wing so head coach Chauncey Billups can get him on the floor with Scoot and Simons, rookie Kris Murray getting at least developmental minutes if not more, Jerami Grant back as the starter at the four and Matisse Thybulle likely starting at the three, Little will need to stay healthy and play well to prove he belongs in Portland’s rotation.+