Nassir Little Ahead of Pivotal Season: "I'm Not a 'Project' No More"
In a new interview, Little details his shoulder rehab and expectations of a big year.
Nassir Little knows he isn't being talked about much. At 22, he's still young enough to be thought of as a prospect, but going into his fourth season coming off a strong 2021-22 season cut short by a shoulder injury, he's ready to be much more than that.
"Right now, I'm transitioning into a point in my career where [I'm] not a 'project' no more," Little said in a recent interview. "I'm an actual product, you feel me? And obviously, I'm going to continue to get better, but now it's like, 'he's a player.' It's not, 'Put him out there and let him develop.' This year is where I think I'm going to take a jump, for real."
His jump looked like it was going to come last year. As the Trail Blazers' season fell apart with Damian Lillard being shut down with an abdominal injury and veterans CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and Robert Covington being traded, Little saw his opportunity and role increase.
From mid-December on, Little became a full-time starter and responded by averaging career highs of 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while more than doubling his three-point volume. He rapidly gained the trust of new head coach Chauncey Billups, who regularly praised his work ethic and defensive impact. But in late January, he suffered a labral tear in his left shoulder, undergoing season-ending surgery on Feb. 1.