Trail Blazers: 3 things Anfernee Simons needs to work on this off-season

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Portland Trail Blazers Guard Anfernee Simons (1) reacts to a call during a NBA game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Clippers on November 7, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Portland Trail Blazers Guard Anfernee Simons (1) reacts to a call during a NBA game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Clippers on November 7, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons had an up and down season in his second year in the league. What three things should Simons work on this off-season?

Anfernee Simons had an up and down year for the Trail Blazers, but he still has a big future in the league. He is still only 20-years-old and has all the physical tools to be a great starter in this league.

Simons is a six-foot-three combo guard with a massive six-foot-nine wingspan. He can handle the ball, he has crazy athleticism, and he can shoot. After barely playing in the 2019 season though, his introduction to the league as a role player wasn’t smooth. There are a few reasons for this though.

Simons was expected to play this year, but I find it hard to believe that Terry Stotts would have wanted the 20-year-old to play 25 minutes a night. Simons only averaged six or eight minutes in garbage time in 2019, playing just 20 total games.

The injury to Zach Collins early, and then another injury to Rodney Hood, meant that not only did Simons have to play more minutes, but he played a lot of shooting guard and even played some minutes at small forward.

Simons is a combo-guard, he can run some offense and he is a heat up quick shooter, but physically those tools he has need to be refined with added muscle and more time on the court to raise his IQ. He definitely isn’t an NBA three and even more so he can’t defend NBA threes.

Simons has a slight build, which shouldn’t be a problem as he is very early in his NBA conditioning and strength training days. The Blazers injury issues have made it difficult on some of the young players. While Gary Trent Jr was getting all the praise for his great play, Simons was copping it for not doing the same when he probably wasn’t ready for a big role anyway.

Now with some extended time off and the potential of this season being over, he can use his mixed experiences this year to work on the below skills.

Finishing at the rim

Simons should be a good finisher at the rim. Yes, he isn’t very strong yet, but he has nice long arms and he is fast as well as a great leaper. He doesn’t need to be super-aggressive, but he needs a bit more grit and toughness when going to the basket.

One dunk in particular comes to mind against the Miami Heat, where Simons exploded along the baseline and rose above everyone with an emphatic jam. If you watched him most nights you wouldn’t see that he has this in his game, but if you watch the below highlights you know he has more of this in the bag.

He has a nice midrange game, but needs to balance his jumpers with his drives to try and get more shots at the rim.

His efficiency of 57 percent isn’t bad, but he only gets there on 25 percent of his shot attempts. With his quickness and nice dribble, he should be able to break guys down more and use his quickness to increase both the volume and efficiency.

Simons also should look to cut and use his speed to try and get open on backdoor cuts more often. Just watch him in the below clip

Secondary playmaking

Simons, because his size at six-foot-three not being ideal for a shooting guard, needs to be a strong secondary playmaker on this Blazers team. He is a combo guard and was drafted to back up Damian Lillard longterm as Neil Olshey didn’t sign or bring back any other point guards from 2018 or 2019.

Simons showed very limited playmaking skills in leading the second unit on the Blazers this season. Considering his usage, he only ranked in the third percentile in the entire league for assisting his team-mates. This is pretty bad, but again, he is young and can work on this part of his game.

His shooting range and quickness should mean as his offensive game develops he will attract better defenders and have wing threats closing out on him aggressively. He has a nice feel for the game and there’s no reason he couldn’t be a pick and roll threat as his dribble continues to develop.

Simons target should be to make basic reads in the pick and roll and maybe look to get guys open for lobs like Zach Collins, or get simple dump off passes to Jusuf Nurkic.

He may never develop into a top playmaker, but he can definitely get more court-time by making simple reads and looking to initiate offense in transition.


This is probably Simons biggest work-on. Contemporaries of his like Coby White have negative wingspans and inferior tools yet they seemed to have taken bigger strides on that end.

Simons frame is obviously not built for plus NBA defense yet, but there’s no reason that he at least can’t be a good steals guy while also moving his feet well on the perimeter.

Maybe he will never be able to switch like his young team-mate Trent Jr, but he needs to be league average on that end. By utilising his quickness and getting stronger so he can fight over or get around screens, he could maybe guard opposition two-guards. He has very long arms, so having one of the lowest steal rates in the league doesn’t seem right.

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Just like he needs to be tougher on offense, his defensive game needs that same grit.

Because he is going to play a lot with Dame or CJ McCollum, he can’t always be stuck on the weakest guard to leave one of these two to guard the teams best guard. He needs to strive to be a plus defender at least as a team defender first. If he can do that then he will guarantee himself more minutes and have the ball in his hands.

Blazers fans have seen the flashes, we just need Simons to push hard in this off-season. He already has the tools he just needs to work hard on his on-court skills so he can be the sixth man of the future for this team.