1. Player improvement is already evident
There were high expectations for Scoot Henderson, the Blazers No. 3 pick in June's draft. Things have not gone as the franchise hoped.
Scoot got off to a slow start before getting injured. He was wildly inefficient, turnover prone and couldn't help himself committing fouls. Through his first 20 NBA games, he averaged 11.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists while committing 3 turnovers and nearly 4 fouls.
In his last 15, he's averaging 14.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 5.1 apg while lowering his foul count to 2.3 a night. He's shooting 33.3 percent from three. That stretch includes two double-doubles and a 33, 7 and 9 game.
Shaedon Sharpe has struggled with injuries recently, but he was the team's lead offensive option for the first six weeks of the season while Simons was hurt. He scored in double figures in 19 of the Blazers' first 20 games, including a five-game span in which he averaged 26.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists on 53/47/81 shooting splits.
Second-year forward Jabari Walker is now a mainstay in Billups' starting lineup. Duop Reath has gone from total unknown to legitimate NBA center and has played a crucial role while Deandre Ayton goes in and out of the lineup with injuries and underperforms when he does play.
This is Simons' first year as Portland's go-to scorer and he's met, if not surpassed, expectations. It's his first year playing minutes as a full-time point guard as well, and he's averaging a career-high in assists.
The most important pieces of the franchise's future are getting better.