Here’s the latest Portland Trail Blazers news with only five days remaining before the start of the regular season, including a helping hand from Chauncey Billups, Deandre Ayton’s new offensive role and can Anfernee Simons make the West all-star team this season?
Blazers news: Chauncey Billups with the assist to Scoot Henderson
Portland Head Coach Chauncey Billups is familiar with the struggles that can come along with being a rookie point guard, which is why he’s putting all the support he can behind the Blazers’ new franchise floor general Scoot Henderson.
Billups was the No. 3 pick in the 1997 draft, just as Henderson was in this past June’s draft. But Chauncey bounced around between five different franchises before he found a home in Detroit where he won an NBA championship with the Pistons and earned the nickname “Mr. Big Shot.”
Now, he’s doing everything he can to make sure Scoot doesn’t have to take the same winding road, as he told Marc Spears of Andcape:
"I told him, ‘I’m going to be what I needed as the third pick in the draft at 20 years old. I’m going to be that guy for you.’ I promised him that. And that’s exactly what I’m going to be the whole time. I’m always going to be consistent.Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups on Scoot Henderson"
Deandre Ayton finally gets the role he’s always wanted…for now
New Blazers center Deandre Ayton became publicly frustrated with his place in the Phoenix Suns’ offensive pecking order before he was dealt to Portland as part of the Damian Lillard trade. He won’t be the No. 1 option with Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant and Scoot around, but Billups said his new big man can expect to get the touches he’s been craving now that he’s a Blazer.
Ayton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft in part because of the offensive versatility he showed at the University of Arizona. Despite being 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, Ayton is agile, athletic and nimble, big enough to score on smaller players in the post but skilled enough to step out and hit from the mid-range.
But he played with finesse rather than strength in Phoenix, choosing to score on turnaround fadeaways in the post and soft finishes at the rim, despite his size. That will have to change in Portland if he’s going to remain an offensive focal point.
Anfernee Simons plans on being an all-star in 2023-24
Anfernee Simons is poised to take over as the Blazers’ No. 1 offensive option this season after the franchise traded Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks. The 24-year-old had a breakout season in 2022-23, scoring more than 20 points per game for the first time in his career and carrying the second-highest usage rate on the team behind Dame.
The fifth-year guard showed he has a complete offensive package and, barring injury, there’s no reason to believe he won’t average closer to 30 points a night this year. His goals appear to be loftier, however.
Simons has all the talent, and now the opportunity, to add his name to the all-star conversation with the other top guards in the Western Conference. If he can improve on the other end of the floor, all the better for a Portland team that hasn’t been prolific defensively over the last handful of seasons.