The Portland Trail Blazers are finally going to play a real basketball game again. It’s a preseason game, and it’s not even against an NBA team (they play the New Zealand Breakers), but after a drama-filled summer, watching a Blazers game will be a sigh of relief.
The draft lottery that saw Portland move up and land the No. 3 overall pick. The questions that immediately followed – would general manager Joe Cronin find a way to trade that pick for veteran help to put around Damian Lillard?
Then the 2023 NBA Draft itself. The excitement of landing a prospect like Scoot Henderson, but the sinking feeling that it meant Lillard may have played his final game in a Blazers jersey.
Then the trade demand. The Miami Heat rumors. The drama. Finally the Lillard trade to the Milwaukee Bucks. The subsequent Jrue Holiday trade to the Boston Celtics. The beginning of training camp.
Now, an extensively reworked roster will take the floor for an actual competitive game. Here are three things to look for as the Blazers take on the Breakers at the Moda Center.
3 things to watch for as the Portland Trail Blazers start the 2023-24 season
1. Who starts, who plays and how much?
The starting five that head coach Chauncey Billups puts on the floor to face the Breakers probably won’t be the same five that takes the floor in LA to face the Clippers in the regular-season opener on Oct. 25, but it could give us a clue into Billups’ thinking after the first week of camp.
Does Scoot start at point guard for the first game of his first preseason and never look back? Does he pair with new big man Deandre Ayton in the starting lineup? Do any of the team’s returning veterans – Jerami Grant, Matisse Thybulle, Anfernee Simons included – get a look right from the opening tip?
What about Shaedon Sharpe and Kris Murray, two young players who should be expected to play real minutes and legitimate roles this year?
What about Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams III, the duo the Trail Blazers got from Boston in exchange for Holiday?
Then there are players like Rayan Rupert, Toumani Camara, Ibou Badji and Moses Brown – the young group looking to make an impact and show Billups they belong. How much run do they get?
It’ll be interesting to see if Portland plays at least some of the game with a real rotation or if Billups and his staff toss the young guys out there and let ’em play.