What are the Portland Trail Blazers trying to do? Are they rebuilding, or are they trying to make another playoff push? It is well known that Damian Lillard wants to be in Miami. But Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin is doing the right thing for the organization by holding out for the best deal he can get. However, will this inaction affect team chemistry, as there is reportedly distrust between Lillard and the franchise?
“We’re going to do what’s best for our team,” Cronin told reporters at the Las Vegas Summer League. “We’re going to see how this lands. And if it takes months, it takes months.”
“I don’t feel that I did everything I could because I didn’t get done what I needed to get done,” Cronin said. “In that sense, I do feel like I failed Dame. Our goal was to win now as quickly as possible. If he didn’t feel that way, it was a failure on my end.”
2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Offseason Edition: No. 26 Portland Trail Blazers
Portland missed the playoffs for the second straight season, finishing with the fifth-worst record (33-49). But the Blazers were just four games under .500 in the games that Lillard played. They also were one of the winners of the 2023 draft lottery, moving up two spots to No. 3, where they selected G League Ignite sensation Scoot Henderson.
Portland also selected Kris Murray at No. 23 in the first round and Rayan Rupert with the No. 43 pick. The only two other moves the Trail Blazers made were re-signing Jerami Grant and Matisse Thybulle.
While everyone waits on Portland’s decision, the Blazers can’t be totally discounted even when Lillard is dealt. He can play at an elite level, as he showed last year. Grant, Anfernee Simons, and Jusuf Nurkic are excellent role players. Thus, the reason the Trail Blazers start at N0. 26 in my power rankings.
Blazers’ Summer League Recap
Portland went 3-2 in the 2K24 Las Vegas Summer League. It was a mixed bag of results for the Trail Blazers overall. Henderson was fantastic in the 22 minutes he was on the court before he suffered a shoulder injury. Keon Johnson also was injured in Vegas.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) July 8, 2023
Besides Henderson, free agents Michael Devoe and Duop Reath were the Blazers’ best players. Devoe, who played with the G League’s Ontario Clippers last season, compiled 18.8 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.2 steals in four games. He shot 53.2% from the field and 64.7% from the three-point line.
Reath, a veteran Summer League and international player, had the best summer session of his career. The 27-year-old Australian produced 13 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks.
Shaedon Sharpe is very talented and can certainly score, and he did that in Vegas. However, the 20-year-old was inefficient, and he still has a lot of ball-handling work to do. He was a little better defensively than he was during the regular season.
summer league Shae on full display pic.twitter.com/9bCu8llzNd
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) July 9, 2023
Jabari Walker was fantastic on the defensive backboards but wasn’t as efficient as last year in Vegas. Walker’s ball-handling and defense were also suspect this year.
Best Offseason Decision: Drafting Scoot Henderson
Henderson is considered a “can’t miss” prospect and was impressive in his Summer League action. But he is a little on the small side and needs to continue working on his body and perimeter shooting.
Worst Offseason Decision: Overpaying Jerami Grant
Grant is an excellent two-way player coming off one of the best seasons of his career. However, he didn’t deserve to receive one of the most lucrative contracts of the summer. The 29-year-old forward signed a five-year deal with the Blazers worth $160 million with a player option for the 2027-28 campaign. Granted, he had some potential suitors if the Blazers allowed a bidding war.
Grant averaged 20.5 points, the second-highest mark of his career, on 47.5% shooting from the field. He set career-highs with 2.3 threes while draining them at a 40.1% clip. The ninth-year pro is not a great rebounder or ball-handler.
What’s Next: Fill Out Roster
Portland has 13 players on standard contracts, although they are in a holding pattern until Lillard’s situation is resolved. If he remains with the Blazers on opening day, they must add at least one player. Jeenathan Williams is on a non-guaranteed contract that becomes fully guaranteed on August 1.
The Trail Blazers need a backup center and possibly another big man, as Nurkic is the only center on the roster. There are rumors that he will be included in a trade with Lillard.