The 2022-23 season didn’t go quite as planned for the Portland Trail Blazers — aside from the eventual silver lining of playing poorly enough to draft Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
The Blazers missed the playoffs for the second straight season, tanking after a promising early start had some convinced a special, surprise season was coming. (I feel foolish to admit now I was one of those gullible dreamers).
But NBA seasons, even losing ones, are never all gloom and doom. There are thrilling, last-second victories and spectacular highlights that make you jump from your couch, especially if Shaedon Sharpe laces ‘em up for your squad. Today, as another August exercise, we are taking a look back at some of the best Blazers plays from the 2022-23 and asking readers to select the best in the comments.
At best, it will inspire some nice debate and reader stories about their personal experience with some of these plays, and remind fans of Jerami Grant’s value, the great talent of Anfernee Simons, and the impressive leaps Sharpe took in his first NBA season — both metaphorically and literally.
At worst, hey, you get an excuse to watch some fun Blazers highlights.
So what was the best Blazers play from last season? Time for you to decide. Here are the nominees:
Oct. 21, 2022 - Simons’ Skyhook Skies Portland over the Suns in OT
Hope still reigned supreme in Rip City when Simons’ swooping skyhook pierced the Moda Center ceiling and swished through with 7.2 seconds remaining. The shot put the Blazers over the Phoenix Suns and put Portland at 2-0 on the season. This play emphasizes the fantastic athleticism and expert shotmaking ability of Simons. It’s not every day you see a point guard pull the skyhook out of his bag, let alone do it in the clutch against First-Team All-Defense Mikal Bridges. The play also demonstrates how together and locked in the Blazers seemed at the start of last season. Damian Lillard deferred to Simons when the double-team came and the former understudy delivered. As a cherry on top, Blazers broadcaster Kevin Calabro elevates the play by expertly and epically setting up the showdown between Simons and Bridges in real time.
Oct. 28, 2022 - Sharpe Blasts Off Against Rockets
A few days prior to this October matchup, Sharpe soared for a lob over LeBron James that made the rounds on social media, but this sequence against the Houston Rockets formally established the rookie as a human highlight reel in the air. On the first play, Grant found a cutting Sharpe who took off from a far distance for a powerful tomahawk. I remember rewinding the dunk at the time and thinking it didn’t look natural, but more like Sharpe was smoothly levitating on his way to the cup. Then before viewers had a chance to calm down from the aerial display, Keon Johnson chased down a loose ball to set up Sharpe up top once more, sending the Rockets into a timeout and the Moda into a frenzy. The maximum air from Sharpe, the maximum hustle from Johnson, and an ecstatic bench losing its mind on the sideline. Just a fun sequence all around.
Nov. 4, 2022 - Jerami Grant Wins it in Phoenix
The shot that inspired perhaps the most joyous moment of the Blazers season — and with that, a popular T-shirt — Grant’s fadeaway dagger to beat Phoenix is a strong candidate for Play of the Year based on sentimental value alone. On a night Portland was without Lillard and Simons, the short-handed Blazers still outlasted the Suns on the road behind Grant’s heroics. With exactly 1 second remaining, Justise Winslow lofted a pass toward the right corner, Grant caught it (getting away with a walk, but whatever!), and elevated for the game-winning jumper.
Nov. 7, 2022 - Hart Takes the Heat’s Heart in Miami
Just three days after Grant’s walk-off winner, Josh Hart played hero in Miami with a buzzer-beater of his own. (The first 10 or so games of the season were a lot of fun, weren’t they?). In a dash up the court with just over 5 seconds remaining, Lillard attracted three defenders, setting up Hart for an open 3 from the left corner. He canned it at the horn. Once again, the Blazers got to mob a teammate in a postgame celebration.
Feb. 14, 2023 - Sharpe Slams Over Kuzma
Oh, poor Kyle Kuzma. The Washington Wizards forward should’ve known better than to go after Shaedon Sharpe with a full runway from the corner. Blazers broadcaster Lamar Hurd saw the destruction coming from a mile away, uttering “Oh, let’s go,” the second Sharpe put the ball on the floor. Sharpe fully cocks back his arm on this slam, making the Kodak moment all the more absurd. Sharpe often chases the highlight with his tomahawks, looking to humiliate opponents. But sometimes that strategy results in anticlimactic free throws or emphatic misses. This time, Sharpe connected and showed just what he can do when everything lines up.
Feb. 28, 2023 - Sharpe Posterizes Green
Exactly two weeks later, Sharpe did it again. This time, against a much more famous, or infamous, opponent: Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. Sharpe, from just inside the free throw line, needed limited launch room to get the best of the one-time Defensive Player of the Year in this aerial face-off. The usually reserved rookie flexed and bumped chests with Green, before jogging back on defense with a wry smile. The dunk, taking into account the pedigree of the defender, makes this highlight the best of Sharpe’s action-packed rookie reel. It holds a strong argument for Blazers Play of the Year as well.
What Do You Think?
A quick note before wrapping up: You may notice an omission of Damian Lillard plays. That’s not because I’m holding a vendetta due to the trade request and attempting to scrub the annals of Blazers history of any mention of his name. Despite being Portland’s best player last season, Lillard, in my eyes at least, didn’t produce a highlight better than the ones listed above. Obviously, his 71-point outing against the Rockets in February was historic and the best performance of the season, but I didn’t qualify it for this exercise, which is more about singular plays. Also, some of Lillard’s clutch heroics were undone by poor defense from the Blazers on the following possessions, robbing him of a few signature highlights. I was even tempted to include this timeout-inducing, take-that 3-pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers from January, but he hits shots like that on the regular now.
Anyway, how do you see it, Blazer’s Edge readers? What is is the best play of the bunch? Did I miss any worthy nominees? Let us know in the comments!