Justise Winslow will replace Shaedon Sharpe in the starting lineup as the Portland Trail Blazers face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 4:00 PM, Pacific Time today. Sharpe had become the customary replacement in the absence of Damian Lillard, who is recuperating from a calf injury. Against the Cavaliers, Sharpe will return to the bench while Winslow gets the starting nod, presumably occupying the small forward position while starter Josh Hart moves to shooting guard.
The move makes sense against a Cavaliers lineup with a large frontcourt and plenty of scoring power at the guard positions.
Spencer Davis of Basketball News tweeted the announcement first:
Justise Winslow is starting for the Blazers tonight in place of Shaedon Sharpe, per Chauncey Billups.
Casey Holdahl of the Trail Blazers added clarification, indicating Head Coach Chauncey Billups is looking to bolster team defense early:
Justise Winslow will get the start tonight versus the Cavaliers in place of Shaedon Sharpe. Chauncey Billups feels like the team hasn’t gotten off to good starts on the defensive end and hopes inserting Winslow into the starting lineup will change that.
Sharpe, a rookie, is a precocious offensive player, averaging 9.2 points per game in 21.4 minutes, the best per-minute scoring production of any regular bench player for the Blazers. Sharpe is shooting 50.0% from the field and 42.9% from the three-point arc in 16 appearances this season.
The 26-year-old Winslow is nowhere near Sharpe’s equal on offense, averaging only 7.0 points in 26.1 minutes per game in 14 appearances, shooting 39.2% from the field, 22.7% from the arc. But Winslow is a more accomplished defender who also facilitates for the Blazers upon occasion.
Portland has lost three straight games and is looking to rebound against the 11-6 Cavaliers.