The Portland Trail Blazers’ starting lineup heading into the 2022-23 season is fairly well established, with Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the backcourt, and Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic holding down the frontcourt. But the small forward position is a little less certain. Lots of young wings will have a chance to shine.
Speaking with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on Thursday’s episode of All The Smoke, Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups shed some light on who exactly he plans to test at the three.
“The three is open but I kind of see it right now, like, another kid that really made a jump for us last year until he got hurt was Nassir Little. He was hooping. He was hooping. He’s really athletic, he can shoot the three, he can guard. So, I see him, Josh Hart, who we got who is balling too. I see them in that three spot, but the young boy Shaedon (Sharpe) – he got a chance to be special. He got a real chance to be special.”
Right now, it seems as if Little has the edge for minutes at small forward, having spent time at both forward positions in his three years with the team. Hart will likely see court time at both small forward and shooting guard as a hybridized backup. While a little undersized at the three, he is accustomed to playing each wing position.
None of this is entirely unexpected, but it should be noted that Billups explicitly mentions Sharpe here as well. The No. 7 overall pick has long been seen as an oversized two-guard, but should see his rookie minutes modestly ballooned by time at the three as well.
Little, though, presumably to receive the lion’s share of time at small forward, is currently the best bet to start. Prior to sustaining a labral tear in his left shoulder in January, he strung together 20+ starts in the 2021-22 season. In that stretch, he averaged 11 points per game while playing stalwart defense.
None of this is set in stone, of course. Billups will make adjustments as the season progresses. But those three appear primed for big opportunities ahead.