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Blazers Join Warriors Company with Rare Rookie History

Portland Trail Blazers rookies Scoot Henderson and Kris Murray

On Saturday, the Portland Trail Blazers became just the second team in NBA history to start five rookies as they faced off against the Denver Nuggets.

In their final homestand before a seven-game road trip, the Blazers lost narrowly to the Nuggets, 114-111. 2023 No. 3 pick, Scoot Henderson, reentered the starting lineup last week. In the matchup against Denver, the 20-year-old was joined by Toumani Camara, Duop Reath, Kris Murray, and Rayan Rupert.

Blazers Join Warriors Company with Rare NBA History

Rayan Rupert

It was Rupert’s first start of the season after playing 43 combined minutes in the two previous games. Hearing his name called to step up for the hobbled Anfernee Simons, the Frenchman tallied just three points on 1-2 shooting from the field. However, he dished out five assists in 16 minutes, finding Reath on three.

The 43rd overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Rupert played for the NBL’s New Zealand Breakers last season. The 6-foot-6 wing been unable to consistently cash in on his deliveries, shooting below 40 percent from the field in the NBL, G League, and NBA. Yet, he’s up to 37.5 percent shooting from 3 in limited attempts (12-32) for the Blazers this season. On Mar. 4, Rupert scored a career-high 13 points, going 3-3 from 3, as the Blazers fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Notably, Rupert is signed to a standard NBA contract rather than a two-way deal, despite being a second-round pick.

Kris Murray

Murray (twin brother of Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray) has played 51 games for the Blazers this season, starting in nearly one-third (18) of those contests. Against the Nuggets, Murray filled up the box score, as he’s been wont to do. However, he struggled to hit his shots from beyond the arc, going 1-6 from 3.

It was his worst game in a week. Murray scored 16.0 points per game —on 57.1 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from 3 —in his previous three games. That being said, Murray’s long been a more streaky outside shooter than his brother, who has knocked down 38.8 percent of his 3s since being drafted by the Kings. He’s at his best when heading towards the rim, whether he called his own number or is playing off his teammates’ gravity.

Duop Reath

Starting in place of former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton as the resurgent center recovers from elbow tendinitis, Reath was arguably the Blazers’ best player on Saturday night.

The 27-year-old has tallied 24 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, one steal, and a pair of assists against the Nuggets. He also shot efficiently, going 9-14 from the field and 3-6 from 3. A consistent player for Portland throughout the season, Reath has played well when he’s with the first unit. In 18 games, he’s averaging 14.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game.

A longtime pro with extensive international experience, the South Sudanese big man is making his presence felt stateside, just as he did in China and his native Australia. The Blazers converted his two-way contract to a standard deal last month.

Toumani Camara

A player who should be getting attention for an All-Rookie selection, Camara has started in 47 games for the Blazers this season. In those games, Camara has averaged 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.9 blocks in 26.1 minutes per game. A complementary two-way playmaker, the 23-year-old was the 52nd overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Camara looks to be a placeholder in the starting lineup, either for the injured Shaedon Sharpe or a player yet to be drafted. To that point, several forward prospects will be available in the lottery. This includes JL Bourg sharpshooter Zaccharie Risacher and former G League Ignite focal point Ron Holland.

Nonetheless, Camara’s contributions can’t go unrecognized. He’s had a respectable rookie season and has gained valuable experience. Moving forward, his well-rounded skillset and savviness should keep him in the rotation, even if he’s supplanted as a starter.

On Saturday, he recorded 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists, one block, and one steal against the Nuggets. He also went 2-4 from 3-point range.

Scoot Henderson

While Reath may have been the Blazers’ best player on Saturday night, and Camara performed well, Henderson stole the show with 22 points, six assists, and two steals in 28 minutes.

Shooting 9-20 from the field and 2-4 from 3, it was Henderson’s second consecutive game scoring at least 20 points while shooting at least 44 percent from the field. It’s only the fourth time Henderson has accomplished that feat this season.

Despite an underwhelming rookie season, the 20-year-old is finishing strong. In his last five contests, he’s averaging 17.8 points, 5.6 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 40.0 percent from 3. In that time, Henderson’s blended his pace and speed well when attacking the rim. He consistently manipulated defenses to create open shots for himself or his teammates.

Warriors Rookies

When the Warriors started five rookies on Apr. 26, 2012, it was the final game of the regular season. Starters Stephen Curry, David Lee, Dorrell Wright, and Andris Biedrins were all sitting out. Klay Thompson —the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft —was joined by Jeremy Tyler, Chris Wright, Charles Jenkins, and Mickell Gladness.

Aside from Thompson, who has gone on to win four championships in a storied career, none of the aforementioned players lasted long in the NBA. Gladness, then 25 years old, never played another NBA game. Wright’s career ended after just eight more games, which he played with the Milwaukee Bucks two seasons later.

Tyler, a 2011 second-round pick who had flashed promise with the New York Knicks, lasted until the 2013-14 season as well. Jenkins, another 2011 second-round pick, played 47 more games with the Warriors. Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, he would play 12 more games before going unsigned in free agency. Tyler and Jenkins started in 51 combined games for the Warriors in their rookie season.

The Blazers will hope their rookies’ futures turn out better than that.


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