The Portland Trail Blazers are going the route of the rebuild this season, preferring to prioritize the long game and the development of young players like Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, Toumani Camara and others.
However, in a recent piece, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale wrote Portland needs to do a better job of freeing up minutes for that development, especially during a 7-21 season. With solid veterans Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant requiring minutes and touches, Favale said the younger players on the roster have unwisely had to take a backseat at times.
Their breadth of available bodies has created redundancies and court-time crunches that don’t have comfortable solutions—or distinct problem origins.
More than anything, this is probably a too-many-vets-who-expect-to-play-and-get-touches issue. It’s one thing to lean heavily upon Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant when you’re winning. Portland is doing the exact opposite.
Seeing Scoot Henderson’s minutes kept in check is especially puzzling. It was one thing when he first returned from his sprained right ankle. It’s uncomfortable to watch it happen nearly one month later. The same can be said for Shaedon Sharpe’s fluctuating offensive usage. There needs to be room for him to explore, consistently and in high doses.
Whether this is on head coach Chauncey Billups’ philosophy or general manager Joe Cronin’s roster construction is debatable. Regardless of your preferred scapegoat, the Blazers playing Brogdon for the entire fourth quarter in a four-point loss to Golden State on Dec. 17 typifies this problem. That makes sense if you’re prioritizing the immediate picture, but Portland is supposed to be playing a (much) longer game.
Favale said Portland needs to clear this issue up soon, and he’s right. Ever since the return from injury of electric scorer Anfernee Simons, there has been a noticeable logjam in Portland’s backcourt between Simons, Henderson, Sharpe and Brogdon.
The media and fans have frequently discussed Portland’s upcoming decisions regarding Brogdon and Grant at February’s Trade Deadline as one of the more important storylines of the season. I laid out the arguments for keeping or trading the pair in a piece at the beginning of the month. Well, the subsequent return of Simons and his offensive firepower, as well as the resulting minutes crunch in the backcourt — involving arguably Portland’s three most important developmental pieces, no less — made it radically clear Portland at least needs to trade Brogdon, even with his solid production and mentorship.
With Grant playing in the frontcourt, I still see less of a necessity to trade him in the immediate future. But Favale is right: The Trail Blazers need to balance out the roster some to put the development of their younger players more at the forefront. Trading Brogdon is one of the simplest solutions to make that happen.