The Portland Trail Blazers have been a team of streaks through the first nine games of the 2023-24 NBA season. Head Coach Chauncey Billups’ team lost its first three contests, then won three straight and has now lost three straight again following a Nov. 12 defeat to the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers.
Along with ups and downs come bright spots and dark spots – that may be especially true for an inexperienced team in the first true year of a rebuild following the trade of Damian Lillard.
But what, or perhaps more suitably, who, have been those bright spots for the Blazers? And which players have underperformed?
Four players have stood out through the first few weeks of the season, two because of how well they’ve started the year and two others because of how they’ve struggled.
Which Blazers’ stocks are going up and which are falling as a brand new team attempts to find its footing?
Stock up: Shaedon Sharpe
After an unexpectedly hot start to the season, Shaedon Sharpe has fallen back to Earth, but the 20-year-old’s quick improvement has still been a pleasant surprise.
Sharpe’s game has jumped multiple levels between his rookie and sophomore seasons. After averaging 9.9 points a contest last year, he’s averaging 19.8 in ’23-24. His minutes have skyrocketed, as have his shot attempts, but he’s still shooting fairly efficiently: 37.5 from three compared to 36.0 percent as a rookie.
He’s getting to the free-throw line more than three times as often as last year, a positive sign for a player with more opportunities. He’s not simply settling for step-back jumpers and bad shots in isolation, he’s attacking the basket to the tune of 4.7 attempts per game from the charity stripe and is connecting on 83.3 percent of those.
With injuries to Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson, Sharpe has been forced into playing as one of the Blazers’ featured offensive options, and despite having played fewer than 90 NBA games, is showing a staggering level of improvement.