Not much is expected of the Portland Trail Blazers this year – at least not on the court. Offseason drama has dominated the discourse of the national media and most fans (looking at you, Damian Lillard), but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to get excited about. Scoot Henderson was the No. 3 pick in the draft; he and second-year guard Shaedon Sharpe represent a Blazers future that truly does seem bright.
Chauncey Billups unquestionably has his work cut out for him in 2023-24 as he deals with not only the Lillard drama, but developing potential future superstars while trying to prove himself as an NBA head coach.
Billups has yet to find success in terms of wins and losses: There have been mitigating circumstances that have made his job more difficult than it’s probably needed to be, but regardless, Chauncey would be the first to admit you’re ultimately judged by your record, not the obstacles that stood in your way.
The Blazers head man took some time to talk with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner and the two discussed a number of topics, but the most significant takeaway from Billups? With or without Damian Lillard, he truly believes – not “coach speak” believes, really believes – there’s reason for optimism about the future in Portland.
Billups’ comments on the Damian Lillard drama
Chauncey described the Lillard situation as “unsettling” and “difficult.” Totally understandable adjectives to use to describe a situation in which you’re just sitting and waiting for a major move to happen – especially when that major move is your best player and franchise superstar leaving your team and rotation.
He quickly flipped things to the present, though, and by default the future.
“I do know who we have on our team right now and who I’ve been working with this summer. Who I’m excited about,” he said.
Shaedon Sharpe is ready to take a sophomore leap
One of those players who will be in Billups’ rotation in 2023-24 is Shaedon Sharpe. The 20-year-old finished last season with a bang, averaging 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 46/38/77 shooting splits across the final 10 games when the Blazers’ regular starters sat and Shaedon took over the offense.
His coach referenced that stretch and what it means moving forward.
“If you watched him at the end, he was lights out,” Billups told Aschburner. “I think he’s worked very hard since then to get better. It was a small sample size, but he was playing against a lot of those teams’ No. 1 defensive player. He was getting some tough coverages and he still was getting things done. I was very impressed with him.”
As a coach who didn’t just let the rookie off the leash and allow him to make mistakes all season, the fact that Billups is impressed with what Sharpe did at the end of last season and with what he’s done during the offseason speaks volumes about what he can do as a sophomore.
Scoot Henderson is a future superstar – and a unique one
When asked about Scoot Henderson, Chauncey was quick to say he expects the 19-year-old to be a star in the NBA. Sure, that could just be Billups pumping up his own player, but he didn’t qualify any of his answer with how people should lower their expectations or be ready to deal with some growing pains.
Scoot looks like “the starting safety for the Denver Broncos” in a point guard’s body, Billups said.
“He plays both sides of the floor with ferocity. He is very, very driven. He’s a playmaker, he’s a real point guard. Got some leadership about him,” Chauncey said in the interview. “He’s going to be an exciting player for the whole world to watch but our fan base, they can rest assured they’ll be entertained.”
The Portland Trail Blazers are ready for the future
Maybe that word – entertained – will end up as the theme of the 2023-24 season as we look back on it. There may far more losses than wins, and who knows if Billups will even be around for the whole thing, but with Scoot, Shaedon, Anfernee Simons and whatever other players step up and surprise the league, the Blazers should be appointment NBA viewing.