Blazers start, bench, cut: Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle, Kris Murray

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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With what will surely be a youthful roster and a focus on rebuilding and getting young players minutes and experience, the Portland Trail Blazers may struggle in the win-loss department this season. That doesn’t mean, however, it won’t be an interesting and probably exciting year for fans.

As the third overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Scoot Henderson will take over lead guard duties once Portland finds a new home for Damian Lillard. It’s hard to forget he’s only 24 years old, but Anfernee Simons is ready to take the reigns as the focal point of the Blazers’ offense.

Second-year guard Shaedon Sharpe will be another go-to option offensively, and Scoot’s fellow rookie first-round pick, Kris Murray, should play a significant role off the bench as a relatively experienced three-and-D wing.

Heading into training camp, however, Portland’s roster still has veterans who are expected to start and/or play major parts in the 2023-24 version of the Blazers – Jerami Grant, Matisse Thybulle and Jusuf Nurkic, for example.

So how does head coach Chauncey Billups manage his rotations and allocate minutes, especially at the wing/forward spot where he has multiple options?

To figure that out, let’s play a fun little game of start, bench, cut, and make it difficult with Sharpe, Thybulle and Murray the three choices.

Blazers should start Shaedon Sharpe

If the emphasis this season is on developing young players, Sharpe should get legitimate run throughout the year as a core piece of Portland’s future. To do so, he would have to earn a starting role at the small forward spot, as Scoot and Simons are entrenched as backcourt starters.

He proved down the stretch of last season, albeit when the Blazers and some of their opponents were in full tank mode, that he has the ability to eventually be a No. 1 option on offense.

In the final 10 games of 2022-23, Sharpe payed more than 35 minutes per game and put up 23.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 46/36/78 shooting splits. He had games of 24, 29, 30, 27, 27, and 26 points.

He struggled defensively, especially off the ball, and had issues with turnovers – normal growing pains for a rookie, especially a 19-year-old who hadn’t played a meaningful game since high school.

But Sharpe’s development should be one of the Blazers’ top priorities this year. He should be allowed to make those mistakes, learn from them and grow, even if it comes at the expensive of wins.