Blazers injury update: Could the opening night starting 5 still return this season?

Portland's been crushed by injuries all year. But could the original starting lineup make a comeback?

Scoot Henderson (center), Portland Trail Blazers
Scoot Henderson (center), Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

The Portland Trail Blazers were never aiming for a postseason berth in 2023-24, but even if they were hoping to be more competitive than their 19-48 record (before a game against the Chicago Bulls on March 18), the injury bug hit hard almost immediately and never left.

Anfernee Simons hurt his thumb on opening night before undergoing surgery and missing the first six-plus weeks of the season. Robert Williams III played six games before tearing a ligament in his knee. Shaedon Sharpe has been out for more than a month and may not return this year after having surgery to fix a core muscle injury.

Malcolm Brogdon, Deandre Ayton, Scoot Henderson and now Jerami Grant have all missed significant time. The Trail Blazers have seen positive development from individuals, but not as a team, and not even as groups or rotations due to the abscences of key players.

Will Portland get some semblance of the band back together before the end of the season or will we have to imagine what a healthy Blazers team might look like next year?

Trail Blazers injury updates: Starting 5 to return in 2023-24?

In game one of the season against the LA Clippers, Portland Head Coach Chauncey Billups rolled out a starting group of Henderson, Simons, Matisse Thybulle, Grant and Ayton. That lineup has played in nine games together this season for a total of...3.8 minutes. Scoot, Simons, Sharpe, Grant and Ayton - another lineup that should have seen significant playing time - have managed 4.1 minutes together.

Other combinations featuring Williams, Brogdon, Jabari Walker and Toumani Camara would have also spent time together. But the fact that the season's original starting five has played together for an average of 0.43 minutes per game in less than 10 contests highlights how sporadic Billups' lineups have been.

Is Jerami Grant playing tonight?

Ayton, Henderson and Simons are healthy-ish and could start tonight in Chicago.

Thybulle has been added to the injury report and is listed as questionable with right ankle soreness.

Grant, however, will miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring issue.

Is it a surprise to see veterans on the bench with minor injuries at this point in the season? Not when Portland is in full tank mode trying to vault up the lottery standings.

But it would be intriguing to see what a normal starting five and rotation - whatever constitutes "normal" right now - would look like. It wouldn't hurt for what's presumably the Blazers' core, at least for the next few seasons, to get time on the floor together.

How do Henderson and Ayton work together in pick-and-rolls? What about Simons and Ayton? Or even Sharpe and Ayton? What does it look like when Scoot and Ayton run a two-man game with three shooters like Grant, Simons and Thybulle spacing the floor? What happens in crunch time when multiple shot creators are on the court?

Chances are we won't get answers to any of these questions until next season, assuming all these players are still in Portland. This mass of injuries has put a cap on how much the likes of Scoot, Ant, Sharpe, Ayton, etc. could have developed this season.

Full injury report for Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls

The complete injury report for tonight's game is as follows:

Portland Trail Blazers:

  • Out: Shaedon Sharpe (core muscle surgery); Robert Williams III (knee); Malcolm Brogdon (elbow tendonitis)
  • Doubtful: Jerami Grant (hamstring)
  • Questionable: Matisse Thybulle (ankle soreness)

Chicago Bulls

  • Out: Zach LaVine (foot surgery); Lonzo Ball (knee); Patrick Williams (foot); Julian Phillips (foot)
  • Doubtful: Coby White (hip)
  • Questionable: Alex Caruso (toe)