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Portland Trail Blazers fantasy basketball season recap

Has Mitchell played his last game in Cleveland?
Michael Holley and Vincent Goodwill unpack the Boston Celtics-Cleveland Cavaliers series, and discuss whether Donovan Mitchell's time in Cleveland is over after he missed Game 4 with a calf injury.

by Zak Hanshew, Rotoworld

Other team recaps:

Detroit Pistons
Washington Wizards

At a glance:

Record: 21-61 (15th, West)

Offensive Rating: 107.6 (29th)

Defensive Rating: 116.6 (23th)

Net Rating: -9.0 (28th)

Pace: 97.8 (21st)

2024 NBA Draft Picks: 7, 14, 34, 40

One minute you’re riding high with Dame D.O.L.L.A., and the next minute you’re one of the worst teams in the Association. Life comes at ya fast.

The Damian Lillard era in Portland ended with a resounding thud over the summer when the disgruntled superstar was granted his trade request and dealt to Milwaukee in a blockbuster deal that sent Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton to the Pacific Northwest. Holiday was subsequently shipped to Boston, and the Blazers nabbed Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon. To say that the roster changed last offseason would be a major understatement.

Portland finished with the worst record in the West, but the failure wasn’t a direct result of Lillard’s absence. The Blazers finished with a losing record in two straight seasons and three of four before Lillard left for Milwaukee. The path forward is the development of young talent.

As we’ll do with most of the cellar-dwellers this season, we’ll ask, “What’s next?” Portland is the fourth-youngest team in the Association with an average age of just 24.7 years old. In the 2023-24 season, the team gave at least 21 minutes per game to four of its last five draft picks from the last two seasons, and Portland’s young core could continue to grow following the 2024 draft in which the Blazers own two lottery picks.

Do Jerami Grant and Malcolm Brogdon fit Portland’s timeline, or will the two be on the move? What should fantasy managers expect from youngsters Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson? Can Anfernee Simons continue to improve? Will anyone on this team be able to stay on the court consistently in 2024-25? We’ll attempt to answer all of those questions and more.

Fantasy Standout: Deandre Ayton

Ayton opened his inaugural season in Portland with a quote for the ages, declaring to a throng of media members, “I bring dominance. My name is DominAyton.” The season was filled with ups and downs, but overall, it was a real-world and fantasy success.

Ayton averaged 16.7 points, 11.1 boards, 1.6 dimes, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 57.0% from the floor. The big man missed 10 of the final 28 games of the season, but when he was on the court, he truly was dominant. Over his final 18 appearances of the season, Ayton averaged a healthy 22.7 points and 12.5 boards on 58.3% shooting. He finished as a top-40 per-game fantasy player on the season, though he appeared in just 55 games. The oft-injured Robert Williams III is Ayton’s primary backup, and Portland’s frontcourt depth is filled with young and undersized options. Ayton should enjoy big minutes and plenty of opportunities next season and for the foreseeable future.

Fantasy Revelation: Scoot Henderson

Scoot came into the NBA Draft as a player who could have gone No. 1 had he not been in the same class as a 7’4 extra-terrestrial. Instead, Henderson fell to third, and the Blazers got a phenomenal break. Ball security and inefficient shooting plagued Henderson throughout his rookie campaign, but those issues aren’t surprising for a first-year player, and they’re ones that he can certainly correct moving forward.

Despite the rookie warts, Henderson showed off his insane athleticism all season, and he finished the campaign on a high note. Over his final 12 games, Scoot averaged 19.3 points, 3.6 boards, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.4 triples while shooting 39.7% from beyond the arc. He recorded four double-doubles in that span, highlighting his court vision, and his barrage of triples allayed some preseason concerns about his shooting ability from beyond the arc. Calling Henderson a revelation may seem like a bit of a stretch, but we’re looking ahead to next season and the insane upside that he has, especially as a cornerstone player for a rebuilding franchise.

Fantasy Disappointment: Anfernee Simons

Simons was drafted as a sixth-rounder, but he finished with a per-game ranking just inside the top-100. That’s not a major swing and a miss, but expectations were that Simons’ sixth-round price tag would be his floor. After a breakout Year 5, Simons was expected to take the next step forward, and for the most part, he did. Simons produced career highs in points (22.6), assists (5.5), rebounds (3.6), three-pointers (3.4) and FT% (91.6). Unfortunately for fantasy managers, he shot just 43.0% from the floor and coughed the ball up 2.7 times per tilt. Simons’ lack of meaningful defensive contributions was most glaring.

Like most of Portland’s roster, availability was a major pain point. Simons appeared in just 46 games - the fewest since his rookie campaign. Portland’s sharpshooting guard wasn’t an abject failure by any means, but expectations were high, and as the old saying goes, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

Fantasy Recaps/Look-Aheads

Robert Williams III: Williams III enjoyed a breakout 2021-22 campaign, finishing among the top centers in fantasy hoops while logging nearly 30 minutes per game in 61 appearances. The time just hasn’t been right for Time Lord since that season, as he’s logged just 41 total games. He was traded to Portland last offseason alongside Malcolm Brogdon as part of the Jrue Holiday deal, and he saw only six games of action for his new team. He averaged 6.8 points, 6.3 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks across 19.8 minutes, so he can still be a deeper-league guy even with limited run behind Ayton. Even if he can stay on the court more consistently, fantasy managers shouldn’t count on an elite fantasy season from the backup big man.

Shaedon Sharpe: Sharpe was a disappointment this season, and if not for Simons’ elevated draft capital, he’d have been mentioned in that section above. Sharpe finished his rookie campaign on a tear, and expectations were high heading into Year 2. His season was cut short on January 11 due to an abdominal injury, and he appeared in just 32 games after playing 80 as a rookie. Sharpe’s playing time jumped from 22.2 minutes to 33.1, and he logged career highs across the board with 15.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.9 dimes and 1.9 triples. The counting stats were a nice step forward, but his efficiency regressed majorly, and Sharpe shot just 40.6% from the field.

Malcolm Brogdon: Brogdon averaged 15.7 points, 3.8 boards and 5.5 dimes across 28.7 minutes in 39 appearances (25 starts) for his new team last season. Like many other Trail Blazers, he had trouble staying on the court. Brogdon’s production wasn’t tremendous given his reduction in playing time, but he was right on par with past performances on a per-36-minute basis. Brogdon averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 boards, 6.9 dimes and 2.6 triples per-36, and his stats in those 25 starts were very close to those averages. Brogdon still has a lot left in the tank, but the glaring question is where does he fit on this roster? Portland will understandably prioritize the development of Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons, leaving Brogdon as the odd guard out. He’s worth a look at the end of fantasy drafts given his sturdy floor and the potential for big games if Henderson, Sharpe or Simons miss time.

Jerami Grant: Grant was up to his usual tricks in his second season with the Blazers, operating as a long-range sniper with a score-first attitude. He averaged 21.0 points, 3.5 boards, 2.8 dimes and 2.1 triples while shooting 45.1% from the floor and 81.7% from the charity stripe. Grant’s scoring got a small bump, but his efficiency faltered, and he contributed even less in the peripheral categories than he did a season ago. His lack of meaningful production outside of points and threes accounted for a lackluster fantasy campaign, and he appeared in just 54 contests. Over his last four seasons, Grant has averaged 54.5 games played, topping out at 63 games in 2022-23. Serious questions about availability and across-the-board production make Grant a risky fantasy option for the 2024-25 campaign.

Jabari Walker: Walker saw his minutes more than double from 11.1 as a rookie to 23.6 in Year 2. Thanks to multiple frontcourt injuries, the Colorado product was thrust into a meaningful rotational role, and he appeared in 72 games with averages of 8.9 points and 7.1 boards. Disappointingly, the undersized four shot a pedestrian 46.0% from the field. The poor shooting wasn’t due to a plethora of long-range attempts. Walker averaged just 1.9 three-point attempts per game and hit fewer than one of them. In 23 starts, he averaged 9.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, but he shot under 40%. Walker was a limited contributor on defense, and there were no categories in which he excelled other than rebounds. He wasn’t an attractive fantasy option this season with increased minutes, and he’ll likely see reduced playing time for a presumably healthier Blazers team in 2024-25.

Restricted Free Agents: Ashton Hagans, Ibou Badji, Justin Minaya

Unrestricted Free Agents: Moses Brown

Team Option: Dalano Banton