The Portland Trail Blazers kicked off the ‘official' first season of their rebuild in 2023-24 after a pair of losing seasons that culminated in Damian Lillard being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.

While the Blazers' poor showing wasn't a surprise to anyone remotely paying attention, the season was still a disappointment in multiple ways – injuries (and the less-than-ideal player development that came out of them), rotational issues, and multiple 60-point losses capped off a difficult 21-61 season for Portland.

But who is most to blame for the rough season?

Scoot Henderson

Portland Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson (00) during the pregame festivities before playing in a game New York Knicks at Moda Center.
© Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

If we were only talking about the last third of the season, Henderson wouldn't be on this list, but since we're covering the entire year, the Blazers' prized rookie deserves mention.

It was an up-and-down first year for Scoot. After looking absolutely outmatched in his NBA debut, the Blazers point guard struggled with his outside shooting, turnovers, and foul rate. He also suffered an early season ankle injury that forced him to miss a decent chunk of time. Upon his return, Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups wisely brought Henderson off the bench until he could find his footing.

Scoot looked like he was turning the corner at the NBA All-Star break, and Billups brought him back into the Blazers' starting lineup. Unfortunately, Henderson aggravated a groin issue during the NBA Rising Stars game and ended up missing eight games immediately after the break.

Blazers fans have reason to be optimistic with Henderson, however. Despite the hiccups, he showed ample improvement throughout the season.

Check out these splits. In the Blazers' first 41 games of the season, Henderson averaged 12.5 points and 4.8 assists on 36 percent shooting (29.9 percent from the 3-point line) with 3.3 turnovers per game. In the final 41 games, Henderson averaged 15.6 points and 6.1 assists on 40 percent from the floor and 35 percent from the 3-point line.

He still needs to work on needless turnovers and his footwork when attempting to finish around the rim. But, despite a disappointing rookie campaign, Henderson looks well on his way to being the point guard that the Blazers envisioned.

Shaedon Sharpe

Portland Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe (17) warms up before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers at the American Airlines Center.
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Through no real fault of his own, Sharpe's season has to be considered a disappointment and a contributor to the Blazers' rough 2023-24 season.

Early in the year, it seemed as though Sharpe was making a second-year jump after a rookie season that saw him average 9.9 points per game.

Through the Blazers' first 21 games, Sharpe was averaging 18.8 points per game while playing heavy minutes due to injuries to Henderson, Anfernee Simons, and Malcolm Brogdon. Unfortunately, the workload was too much to bear, and Sharpe came down with a core muscle injury shortly thereafter. After trying to fight through the injury, and seeing his performance wane, Sharpe ultimately had surgery in early February and wasn't able to suit up again.

For the season, Sharpe only managed to play in 32 games, starting 25. He averaged 15.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in a season that was all about getting him ample playing time next to Henderson.

Joe Cronin

Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin looks on before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Moda Center.
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This isn't necessarily a criticism of the Blazers' GM, but it does bear mentioning since Portland's roster was put together by Cronin. So if we're talking about Portland's successes (like Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara coming over from Phoenix, or finding and signing Duop Reath) Cronin would deserve mention there as well.

But ultimately, the team is in the depths of a rebuild, and Cronin is the guy that pulled the trigger on trading Lillard once he asked out.

The Blazers are currently guard heavy – with Simons, Henderson, Sharpe, and Brogdon (who will likely be moved this offseason) all deserving significant minutes. Portland has talent, but they don't exactly know what they have with a lot of their young players.

With at least one, and likely two, lottery picks in the NBA draft this summer, Cronin has his hands full when it comes to making decisions about the team headed into next season.

Of course, the team didn't tank this hard not to have a lottery pick in the absolutely loaded 2025 draft. So, expect another year of player development before the team starts to turn things around.