Here’s the latest Portland Trail Blazers news (Nov. 6) as the team’s winning streak was halted at three with a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, another injury setback and a Shaedon Sharpe stat that proves the 20-year-old’s continued growth this season is real.
Blazers’ winning streak snapped at 3
In relatively expected fashion, the Trail Blazers began the season 0-3 with losses to the LA Clippers, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers. Then, in relatively unexpected fashion, Portland ripped off three straight W’s, two of them on the road – at the Toronto Raptors and at the Detroit Pistons – before beating the Grizzlies at home.
All good things must come to an end, though, as Blazers fans learned well this offseason, and a pleasantly surprising but brief winning streak concluded with a loss in the second game of a back-to-back against Memphis.
Portland reverted to looking like a young team as it blew a fourth-quarter lead and was outscored by 16 in the final period.
Robert Williams III the latest Blazer to catch the injury bug
Anfernee Simons hurt the UCL in his thumb on opening night against the Clippers and has since undergone surgery. Portland’s top offensive option isn’t expected to return until the middle of December.
Starting point guard Scoot Henderson rolled an ankle in the win at Toronto on Oct. 30 and missed the last two games.
Now, backup center Robert Williams III looks set to miss some time after hurting his knee in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 6 loss to the Grizzlies. Williams had 5 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes before exiting.
Rob Will has a long history of injuries and was already being held out of every other game, and as a potential trade candidate, a stint in street clothes isn’t great news for Williams or Portland.
An overlooked stat proves just how much Shaedon Sharpe’s game has grown
After averaging 9.9 points as a rookie last season, Shaedon Sharpe is scoring 20.1 ppg in 2023-24. Yes, he’s getting a ton more minutes and time with the ball in his hands, which will lead to a natural stat bump; but he’s not just chucking up more shots. He’s doing it efficiently and intelligently.
In 2022-23, Shaedon got to the free-throw line 1.3 times per game. This year, that number has jumped to 4.6. The eye test backs that up – Sharpe is using his athleticism, length and added muscle to get to the rim and draw more fouls.
The free-throw attempt stat is important for a few reasons. One, it gauges how aggressive a player is; Sharpe has the ball more often, but he’s not just settling for pull-up threes, he’s attacking off the dribble.
Two, it’s the easiest way for a player to bump up his scoring average. Shaedon has increased his free-throw attempts by more than three this year and is shooting 81.3 percent from the line.
Sharpe is 20 years old and has played 87 total NBA games. Including the 10-game stretch at the end of last season when he was the Blazers’ No. 1 option, he has played 17 professional basketball games in which he’s one of the top offensive options.
It would be easy for a player with that little experience to find himself with the ball and try a few step-back threes or go into isolation mode and end up with a contested shot. He’s not doing that.
Just as a quick comparison: Boston’s Jayson Tatum didn’t average more than 3.2 FTA until his age-21 season – after he had started 157 NBA games – when he got to the line 4.7 times a night. That year, his scoring average jumped from 15.7 to 23.4, and he made his fist all-star team.
Tatum is now a top-10 player in the league. Portland Head Coach Chauncey Billups made Devin Booker comparisons, another one of the league’s 10 best players, when talking about Sharpe earlier this season.
The way Shaedon is developing his game and the rapid rate at which he’s doing it – that can’t be overstated – is starting to make those Booker/Tatum-type comparisons look legitimate.