Grading Chauncey Billups’ Coaching Performance With The 2023-2024 Portland Trail Blazers

Patrick Rogers | Oregon Sports News

The Portland Trail Blazers stumbled to one of the worst records in the league this year at 21-61. The year was plagued by injuries and some player underperformances, and some are calling for Head Coach and new member of the Basketball Hall Of Fame Chauncey Billups to be let go. In his three-year tenure as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Billups has amassed an 81-165 record, finishing last in the division the past two years. Let’s grade Coach Chauncey on how he’s performed as a coach so far to determine whether or not the Blazers should bring him back for the last year of his contract.

Team Performance: C+

When Chauncey Billups was hired in 2021, I’m unsure if he was aware that he would be without Damian Lillard then. The record of 81-165 is quite disgusting, but the team he inherited in 2021 was gutted entirely of the previous season. Impact players such as Carmelo Anthony, Enes Freedom, Norm Powell, Robert Covington, and my favorite, Josh Hart, were all gone by the end of the 2021 season, leaving Chauncey with an extremely young roster. Because of this and the extensive injury bug he’s faced over the past three years, Billups has done a commendable job piecing together lineups for what seems like every night. At the beginning of the season, I believed this team had the talent to steal the 8th seed. By about a month in, half the team had missed time due to injury. Billups has done an above-average job with what he’s been given for a roster despite the overall record.

Player Development: B

In Chauncey’s tenure, he’s overseen an incredibly young roster, which can have high ceilings and low floors in their performance as the players establish themselves in the NBA. Focusing on three players Billups has drafted or coached, I’d give his effort a solid B so far. In particular, I want to point out three players: Shaedon Sharpe, Anfernee Simons, and Scoot Henderson.

For Sharpe, he was drafted as an athletic freak, with perhaps the best bounce of that draft class, but was noted with a weak jumper. That didn’t show his rookie year, shooting 36% from beyond the arc. After trading Lillard in the offseason, Sharpe saw an expanded role, pushing his average to 15.5 PPG, albeit on a less efficient shooting of 40.6%. Sharpe’s year was also marred by injuries, only playing 32 games. This shows that Billups has instilled confidence in his players to go out and establish their game on the court.

Anfernee Simons, interestingly enough, is the longest-tenured Blazer on this team. When Billups took over in the 2021 season, Simons saw a jump in scoring by almost ten points per game, and Simons continued to improve over the last two years. It was clear that Simons would become the go-to scorer once Lillard was traded. This past year, Simons averaged 22.6 PPG, and his free throw attempts increased by two per game. It’s safe to say that Simons has the green light from Chauncey, and the Blazers are better for it.

As for Scoot Henderson, the jury is still out on him. His rocky start of the season, where he just couldn’t shoot, coupled with a bunch of injuries, gave Henderson a wide range of what an NBA season is like. His high of the season was his triple-double game versus the Kings, where he had 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 15 assists in a win. It showcased what Scoot could do while he pushed the pace all game, crashing the boards and using his playmaking skills to facilitate the offense. Conversely, Scoot put up two of the three worst plus-minus games in NBA history this past season at -58 and -56. While it’s not directly indicative of his performances in the game (for example, the loss to the Heat in March was by 60 points), he was still a part of those games and on the floor for most of the carnage. Scoot’s season was also plagued with injuries, so to grade Billups on his production so far isn’t fair.

Game Management: C+

Coach Chauncey has a decent handle on the game. He was regarded as one of the smartest point guards when he played, and he’s transformed that knowledge into coaching. Throughout this year, there weren’t many instances where I noticed an incorrect lineup or lack of time management. The only instance where game management came up for me was back in January versus the OKC Thunder. Billups tried to call a timeout late in the fourth, but the referee missed the call. Because of this, Malcolm Brogdon assumed the timeout was called, causing him to double-dribble. Frustrated, Billups made contact with the official and then pursued the official after he was issued a tech. The techs handed down gave OKC a two-point advantage, ultimately causing the loss. While losing another game this past season wouldn’t have changed anything, calling the timeout earlier could have benefited the team and salvaged a win. Besides this situation, Billups has a hold on the game of basketball and has excellent knowledge of the rules and his lineups throughout.

Leadership and Culture: B+

Billups’ leadership has been critical in this rebuild of the Blazers. He’s committed to this team and is unafraid to be transparent about what the team needs. Billups believes that the players on his team are the foundation of the entire organization’s success, including himself, and he does everything in his power to foster a positive culture for his players. As I mentioned, his coaching style allows players like Shaedon Sharpe to figure out their game without fear of repercussions like getting benched. He’s even quoted as saying that he wants the environment around the team to be conducive to the players because they become the team’s best recruiters for future free agents. Anfernee Simons said that Billups’ coaching style gave him a lot of confidence and that he knew that Simons could play at the highest level of point guards. This trust that Billiups is showing his players isn’t a facade, and it’s felt by those playing under him. I’d give this a B+ for fostering a productive environment.

Overall: B-

Coach Chauncey Billups has done a great job for what he’s been given. Even though the record might not be optimal, Billups is making the most of it. He’s developing the young guard talent of Scoot, Shaedon, and Simons by allowing them to be themselves. During the game, there are rare moments where I’ve questioned the lineups or clock management that Billups has executed. Ultimately, the players echo Billups’ coaching style with positive messaging about him, and watching his interactions with the players during timeouts confirms my decision that the Blazers need to keep him around for the last year of his contract. Bringing in a different coach for this last year wouldn’t offer much positivity and, truthfully, wouldn’t make this team much better. A healthy Blazers team would show Billups’ progress with the Blazers, but we will have to wait until next year to see what that looks like.