3 Underrated Blazers who could make a massive impact this season

Matisse Thybulle, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)
Matisse Thybulle, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images) /
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Damian Lillard has of course garnered almost any bit of attention that’s been paid to the Portland Trail Blazers this summer. It will almost assuredly continue that way until he ends up in Miami, competing for championships with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Scoot Henderson, who Portland grabbed with the No. 3 pick in the 2023 draft to “replace” Lillard, has been a focus of the NBA at certain times since June. Second-year guard Shaedon Sharpe is expected to make a leap this year after a promising finish to last season.

Anfernee Simons had a breakout campaign in 2022-23 as he scored more than 20 points per game and took over the offense when Lillard sat. He’ll become the Blazers’ No. 1 option offensively this year whenever Dame departs.

There’s a trio of Portland players who have flown mostly under the radar this offseason, though, who may fill surprisingly significant roles in 2023-24 as the Blazers undergo a youth movement and compete with the future in mind rather than the present.

Underrated Blazer No. 1: Jabari Walker

Walker may be the most surprising inclusion on this list, but he showed his versatile skill set during summer league, and with a lack of frontcourt options available to head coach Chauncey Billups – plus the presumed emphasis on finding young players more minutes – the 21-year-old could find himself playing a legitimate role in the rotation this year.

Walker averaged 12.0 points and 8.2 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game at the Vegas summer league. He was also incredibly efficient, shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three on 2.4 attempts.

The 57th pick in the 2022 draft entered the league with the potential to be a scorer and floor spacer, and at 6-foot-8, is able to slot in as a power forward to play as a stretch big.

Walker posted averages of 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in a little more than 11 minutes a game during his rookie campaign, but he’ll likely see an expanded role this year that could give him a chance to prove the skill set he showed in Vegas can translate to the regular season.