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What To Expect From The Trail Blazers Summer League Grads

Eight members of Portland’s Summer League squad are contracted to the team next season. What should we expect?

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Charlotte Hornets Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Despite falling short of a repeat championship in Las Vegas in 2023, the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League squad showed glimpses of what we might see when the first ball is next tipped in October.

Eight players who represented the franchise in Nevada are tied to the Blazers in 2023-24 with Jeenathan Williams potentially the ninth, if his contract is guaranteed before August 1.

Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, Kris Murray, Jabari Walker, Rayan Rupert, Keon Johnson, Ibou Badji and John Butler Jr. could all play home games at the Moda Center in 2023-24. Some might also spend time with Portland’s newly minted G-League affiliate, the Rip City Remix, up at the University of Portland campus.

Today we discuss how much time each could see with the Blazers and what type of role they might have. Below we’ve listed each player, their Summer League numbers and projected season averages with the NBA squad.

For the purposes if this piece, we’ll assume Damian Lillard is moved by training camp —though the stalemate doesn’t look like it’s getting resolved any time soon.

Scoot Henderson, 19 years old, Point Guard, (First Year)

SL Stats 1 game, 21.3 minutes, 15.0 points, 33.3% 3pt, 5.0 boards, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals

Realistic Season Stats 34.0 minutes, 19.5 points, 34.5% 3pt, 4.0 boards, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steals

Henderson will start from day one and will be given as many minutes as he can handle. Unlike other 19-year-olds, the former G-Leaguer has spent the past two years playing against grown men. He shouldn’t have too much trouble acclimating to the speed and size of the NBA.

There’ll be some growing pains but with his ability to score and pass, combined with the intensity on defense, I’m not concerned. For me, the key factor for the third overall pick’s rookie campaign will be his three-point shot. If he’s able to maintain a percentage in the mid 30s on high-ish volume, I’d feel confident about him battling Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Chet Holmgren for Rookie of the Year.

The above prediction is not dissimilar from what Lillard put up his rookie year and Henderson projects as a better facilitator.

My only concern is that there’s little point guard depth behind him. Anfernee Simons will no doubt get time at the one, but I’d suggest General Manager Joe Cronin brings back someone like Skylar Mays who impressed late last season — and sat on the sidelines with senior Blazers players in Vegas.

Shaedon Sharpe, 20, SG/SF (Second Year)

SL Stats 4 games, 27.9 minutes, 17.0 points, 27.3% 3pt, 5.3 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals

Realistic Season Stats 32.0 minutes, 21.0 points, 37.0% 3pt, 6.0 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals

Sharpe will be expected to pick up where he left off last season. Through March and April, more minutes helped the game slow down for the young Canadian, allowing him to find his spots, play with freedom and impact games.

Even if Lillard is moved, Sharpe comes off the bench, at least initially, playing a sixth man role behind Anfernee Simons and Matisse Thybulle. He’ll still have ample opportunity to close games.

The former lottery pick will still get 30-plus minutes a night.

I wouldn’t be shocked to hear his name mentioned in Sixth Man discussions by mid season, and perhaps he decides to compete in the Dunk Contest next February.

Kris Murray, 22 (23 next month), F (First Year)

SL Stats 5 games, 24.7 minutes, 10.0 points, 32.0% 3pt, 4.4 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.4 steals

Realistic Season Stats 24.5 minutes, 11.5 points, 37.5% 3pt, 4.0 boards, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals

Murray’s four years at Iowa gave the Blazers one of the most NBA-ready rookies they’ve had in recent memory. A stout defender at both forward positions, the left hander should hit the long-ball at a decent rate, particularly on the catch and shoot.

If the almost 23-year-old can make half the impact his twin brother Keegan enjoyed with the Sacramento Kings last season, the Blazers will be satisfied.

Whether he’s more a three or a four in the NBA remains to be seen but either way, he’ll come off the bench behind either Jerami Grant or Thybulle.

Jabari Walker, 20 (21 next week), F (Second Year)

SL Stats 5 games, 23.3 minutes, 12.0 points, 50.0% 3pt, 8.2 boards, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals

Realistic Season Stats 21.0 minutes, 9.0 points, 36.5% 3pt, 5.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals

Like Sharpe, Walker will have bigger shoes to fill in season two, particularly with the departure of Trendon Watford. Walker’s ability to rebound, put the ball on the floor, defend and, if Las Vegas was any indication, shoot the three, will mean more minutes.

I suspect Walker’s skillset made General Manager Joe Cronin’s decision to waive Watford last month that much easier.

The Colorado standout’s quick-release, three-point shot looked great through Summer League. After a year in the NBA, he looks more comfortable and less like a deer in the headlights when the ball comes his way.

At the moment, Walker is set to share back up power forward minutes with Murray, behind Grant. There may also be time for him as a small ball center, depending on further additions made to the roster.

Rayan Rupert, 19, SG/SF (First Year)

SL Stats 5 games, 18.2 minutes, 3.6 points, 3.6 boards, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals

Realistic Season Stats 8.0 minutes, 4.5 points, 31.5% 3pt, 2.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals

Don’t be surprised if Rupert spends large chunks of time with the Remix, particularly earlier in the campaign. The Frenchman has enticing talent, particularly on the defensive end, but he needs time to develop on offense.

Depending on who the franchise brings back in a hypothetical Lillard trade, Rupert will, at best, be behind Simons, Thybulle, Sharpe, Murray and maybe Keon Johnson on the depth chart.

Keon Johnson, 21, G (Third Year)

SL Stats 1 game, 1 minute

Realistic Season Stats 10.0 minutes, 5.5 points, 35.0% 3pt, 1.0 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals

Johnson is another beneficiary of the Lillard trade request. If the seven-time All Star was staying, the franchise would be prioritizing veteran talent and not a third year guard who has been stifled through injury and lack of consistency.

This season will be a “put up or shut up” season for the former Clippers first rounder who should be given every opportunity to prove himself with the re-building Blazers.

Johnson has been listed as a point guard but I’m not sure he’s built to run an offense. When he does see the court it’ll be behind Simons and Sharpe and potentially ahead of Rupert.

Ibou Badji, 20, C (Second Year — two-way contract)

SL Stats 5 games, 19.1 minutes, 3.6 points, 2.8 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.8 blocks, 0.6 steals

Realistic Season Stats 7.0 minutes, 4.5 points, 3.5 boards, 0.6 assists, 1.4 blocks

Someone I’m particularly excited to see after a knee injury held him out of his 2022-23 campaign. The athleticism, size and defensive instincts are tantalizing and Summer League gave us our first taste. The Senegalese big man has also got decent feel and hustle.

But his rawness will mean plenty of time with the Remix to massage that potential into tangible contribution.

He’s currently the only real understudy to Jusuf Nurkic, assuming the big Bosnian remains. I suspect Cronin will reinforce the big man rotation before training camp but Badji should still get time with the Blazers.

John Butler Jr., 20, PF (Second Year — two-way contract)

SL Stats 4 games, 11.8 minute, 4.3 points, 50.0% 3pt, 2.0 boards, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals

Realistic Season Stats 5.0 minutes, 3.0 points, 36.5% 3pt, 3.0 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.2 blocks

Slender would be a generous way to describe the former Florida State prospect. Despite standing seven foot, his skeletal frame and unique skillset projects Butler Jr. as better suited to the two forward positions. In limited minutes, Butler Jr. showed off his smooth three point shot in Vegas.

If he’s able to replicate that in the Blazers regular season rotation and use his length to guard smaller opponents, he’ll get his opportunity behind Grant, Murray and Walker.


Assuming Damian Lillard is playing elsewhere next season, this Blazers team won’t be expected to even sniff the Play-In. Wins won’t be common, but that lack of pressure will give players, coaches, the front office and the fans the opportunity to enjoy the young talent this franchise has assembled.

The Blazers probably haven’t experienced this since October 2015 in the wake of LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure. Low expectations and a lot of young talent will hopefully wash away the bad taste from this past few months. Henderson and Sharpe will be central to this new Portland era as we dream about where the Blazers might be in four-five years time.