Here's the latest Portland Trail Blazers news for Dec. 12 after another close loss, including Scoot Henderson's best game yet, Anfernee Simons' wild offensive pace and playing the what-if game with Rip City's imaginary healthy rotation.
Scoot Henderson puts full potential on display in loss to Clippers
For one reason or another - injury, comfortability, maybe simply inexperience - Scoot Henderson had yet to prove why scouts were so enamored with him as a prospect in the 2023 draft class.
Until last night.
Scoot erupted for a career-high 19 points in 30 minutes off the bench, adding 6 assists, 4 rebounds and a pair of blocks. More importantly, he did so efficiently: 8-of-16 shooting and 3-of-4 from three. He finished the night with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
He was a team-high plus-11 in the loss. The only player on the floor who helped his team more was Kawhi Leonard, who was a plus-13 for the Clippers. His effort didn't go unnoticed by his head coach, per Casey Holdahl of NBA.com.
"I thought Scoot was incredible today. His minutes were great, he gave us some great pace. He gave us a push, he got to that basket, he play-made for us today and then he was aggressive to score as well. I thought it was one of his best, kind of all-around efforts in the game today."- Chauncey Billups on Scoot Henderson
Anfernee Simons is who we thought he was
The Blazers played the first six weeks of the season without their best scorer. As it turns out, they may have played the first six weeks of the season without one of the NBA's best scorers.
Anfernee Simons is scoring at a 32-point-per-game clip since he returned to the starting lineup on Dec. 6. He scored 28 in his first game back, dropped 30 two nights later and just poured in a career-high 38 points in the loss at Crypto.com Arena - the same building where he got hurt on opening night.
Simons is No. 5 in the league in scoring over that three-game stretch. He's shooting 44.1 percent from three on 11.3 attempts per night. He's made all 21 of his free-throw attempts, including a 13-for-13 game against LA.
He probably won't shoot 44 percent from deep or 100 percent from the line the rest of the year, but these three games won't be outliers come the end of the season. Ant is overlooked as one of the best pure scorers in the NBA, but if (when) he keeps putting together nights like this, he won't be anymore.
If the Blazers ever get healthy...
The first and only time Portland had a fully healthy roster was on opening night, and that didn't even last the full 48 minutes as Simons exited early with his thumb injury.
Things only got worse after that.
Henderson has missed time with an ankle injury. Brogdon has had two stints on the injured list. Jerami Grant is in the concussion protocol. Deandre Ayton is out with knee soreness. Robert Williams III will be out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery. That's six players who played at least 20 minutes for Billups in the Oct. 25 loss to the Clippers.
Right now, Portland is still without Grant (its leading scorer among those who have played at least 19 of the team's 22 games), Ayton (leading rebounder) and Brogdon (leader in assists).
What could the Blazers look like if all these players are healthy at the same time?
Henderson started the first game of the season but has since found a role as the floor general of the bench unit. Grant and Ayton will return to the starting lineup whenever they're healthy, possibly Brogdon as well.
A five-man group of Simons, Brogdon, Shaedon Sharpe, Grant and Ayton could be on the floor to start games. That would leave Scoot leading the second unit alongside Toumani Camara (who's started 13 games), Matisse Thybulle (who's started 11 games) and Jabari Walker, with Duop Reath playing spot minutes as the Blazers' backup center.
That's a 10-man rotation Billups would have available to him, one that includes a starting five that can compete with most teams in the league, a continuously improving rookie who can be surrounded by steady veterans at all times, a pair of wings who have starting experience and two big men who have been critical to the Trail Blazers' second-unit success.
Portland has either won or lost by a combined 26 points in its last six games. If Billups' entire rotation is ever healthy, there's a good chance those losses turn into wins and the Blazers become a legitimately competitive NBA team.