What We Know and Don't Know After Blazers' First Two Weeks
Thoughts on the good and bad of the beginning of the year.
Two weeks into the 2023-24 NBA season, there's been a lot that's gone as expected for the Trail Blazers and a lot that hasn't.
I wrote before the start of the season that, entering a rebuild, this year (and probably next) would be about tracking individual player improvement and not wins and losses, but even their record hasn't been as bad as most expected. Portland has been outclassed by the two contenders they've faced, the Clippers and Sixers, but they've hung with everybody else. I still expect their record at the end of the season to be among the worst in the league, but Chauncey Billups has to like what he's seeing when it comes to the effort, togetherness and developing identity he's preached since he took the job in 2021.
"These guys, I'm having so much fun coaching them," Billups said after practice on Monday, the morning after a dispiriting collapse against the Grizzlies. "I just love it. Every time we say there's an issue or concern … before last night's game, we talked about passing. We're not passing the ball well enough. We're missing drive-and-kick opportunities. Then we go into last night's game and we have our best passing game of the year. They do everything we ask them to do. I've been so happy with our team and with our intention and our focus. It's been so much fun."
There's only so much that can be learned definitively from a sample this small. But two weeks in, it's worth attempting to sort out what we know and what we don't.
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What we know: Shaedon Sharpe is making the leap
Sharpe moved into the starting lineup in the second game of the season, after Anfernee Simons suffered a thumb injury in the opening-night loss to the Clippers. It was a surprising move at first—if Billups was committed to starting Scoot Henderson and throwing him into the fire, it made more sense on paper to keep the training wheels on a little bit and start Malcolm Brogdon alongside him.
It didn't take long before the world saw why Sharpe had to start. Without a doubt, his play has been the biggest positive of the Blazers' first seven games. Not only was what he did over the final month of last season, when the organizational tank job gave him greater runway to be featured, not a fluke—it was only a taste of what he's capable of.