The Portland Trail Blazers, led by Damian Lillard, are attempting to transform themselves into a competitive team, and they see the arrival of Scoot Henderson, the third overall choice in the 2023 NBA Draught, as a significant improvement. But rather than retooling around Lillard, is it more wise for Portland to trade Lillard and start over with Henderson?
On Friday’s episode of “The Herd,” presenter Colin Cowherd claimed that Lillard should be replaced because Portland’s lineup is too wing-heavy.
“Four of the best Blazers are guards: Scoot Henderson, who may be the best, Dame, Anfernee Simons, and Shaedon Sharpe. They also have one reliable wing, Jerami Grant, provided he is re-signed. Without any titles, they’re practically becoming the Warriors now, according to Cowherd.
“Steph and Klay, I appreciate your devotion to Klay. You received the bag four times and the rings as well. Dame and CJ McCollum played for the Blazers, but they didn’t help you win championships. They won you over and were well-liked. 11 years, 4 series victories. Take them apart. Never did they… What will you get if there are too many guards? Take them apart. Send one away. Scoot Henderson is the next generation.
Lillard just completed his NBA career’s most productive season. He shot 46.3/37.1/91.4 for a career-high average of 32.2 points and 7.3 assists per game. Lillard scored 71 points against the Houston Rockets and 60 points against the Utah Jazz.
Lillard has received seven All-NBA awards and seven roster berths for the All-Star Game during the course of his 11-year NBA career. By the 2023–24 NBA season, he will be 33 years old. His current deal runs until the 2026–27 NBA season.
Last year, the Trail Blazers finished 33-49, enough for 13th place in the Western Conference. They missed the playoffs for a second straight year, and they haven’t seen postseason success since 2019. Portland has only won four postseason series since Lillard’s rookie year (2012–13).
Henderson just had a strong year with the NBA G League Ignite. The 6-foot-2 Henderson played in 19 games, with an average of 16.5 points, 6.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals while shooting 42.9/27.5/76.4. Since selecting Ohio State big man Greg Oden with the one overall choice in 2007, he is the Trail Blazers’ highest draught pick.
In the 2023 draught, the Trail Blazers also picked wing Rayan Rupert at No. 43 and Iowa forward Kris Murray at No. 23, both of whom were named to the All-Big Ten first team the previous year.
Regarding the rest of Portland’s squad, Simons had a career-high scoring average of 21.1 points per game in the previous campaign. The Trail Blazers picked Sharpe, a former five-star recruit, with the seventh overall choice in the 2022 NBA Draught. In his rookie season, Sharpe scored 9.9 points per game while playing in 80 games (15 starts).
Cowherd believes that Henderson represents Portland’s future among all of the city’s rising talent.
“Dame’s a great player, but after about four practises of Scoot, his youth, he’ll be able to play 75 games, he’ll be a willing defender, and you’re gonna look around and go ‘we gotta get Scoot some players,’” Cowherd said. And although Scoot won’t be crowned champion the following year, at least the strategy is clear to everybody. What routes will you choose to keep these people together? You have two options. Neither of them, in my opinion, brings you very near to a championship. “All these guards in the greater West, make a move. I believe both of them get you maybe at best into the basement of the playoffs. Scoot Henderson is without a doubt your future. That is undisputed. Dame could appear in your near future. Why not just move him [Lillard] such that Scoot is surrounded by pieces?
11 years, four playoff victories, and a reboot. It isn’t very emotionally taxing. If you had rings and awards, things would be different. You were never actually in range.