Portland Trail Blazers: Breaking down Anfernee Simons third-season jump

Feb 4, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) before the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons has had a big jump in his third NBA season.

The exciting Simons has played three fewer minutes per game than in the 2020 season, but he has significantly improved his efficiency as well as his defense.

Portland Trail Blazers: Breaking down Anfernee Simon third-season jump


In year two, Simons really struggled. He was unable to knock down his three-point shots at an acceptable rate, and still took many mid-range shots and shots at the rim that weren’t effective. He was used as a backup point guard last year, but he struggled to impact the game in the lineups he appeared in.

This season he has played a bit more next to Damian Lillard, and the extra spacing this has provided has helped his offensive game.

The biggest change for Ant in his offensive game though, has been taking more threes. Ant has contributed more on the offensive end by optimizing his shot profile and making better use of the minutes he is out there.

2019/20 – 7.7 shots per game. 3.2 threes attempted per game, 4.4 twos attempted per game. 

2020/201 – 6.3 shots per game. 4.4 threes attempted per game, 1.9 twos attempted per game. 

Ant, though he is a nice midrange shooter, has changed his shot profile to shoot more threes, and he has been wildly successful doing it. Not only is he shooting an excellent 42.6 percent from three, but he has also been one of the best spot-up shooters in the entire league.

The above tweet shows just how deadly Ant has been as a spot-up threat. Because of his extra efficiency from this distance, his true shooting percentage has jumped from a below league average number of 50.2 percent, up to 58.7 percent.

As a passer, Ant has work to do to become a full-time combo guard, but this season he has improved his passing and made better reads in the pick and roll and transition. He cant be used to run the offense on the second unit yet, but he has shown impressive passing vision on enough occasions to predict he may be able to be a secondary offense creator in the future. It’s clear though, that his assist total is so low because his job is to be a spot-up shooter.


Defensively, Ant has made a surprising jump this year. Because of his small frame and only average defensive tools, it was expected that Ant would always be a sub-par defender.

This season though, the first noticeable thing is his effort on that end. He rips around screens, doesn’t give up on plays, and uses his speed to impact transition defense.

His IQ has also been improving on that end, as he has shown maturity beyond his 21-years of age. He has improved significantly as a man defender, and though he can’t defend bigger players, he doesn’t get blown up on switches and has impressive foot speed against quicker players.

By using his quickness, Ant has also improved his defensive rebounding. He tracks down balls from opponent misses at a strong rate for his position, in the top 27 percent of combo guards in the NBA.

Simons improvements from year two to year three show how he has matured on the court and how hard he has worked off it. The Blazers bench is stronger because of this, and he can look forward to a role in the playoffs, and then a bigger role again in the 2022 season, leading into a rookie extension as a restricted free agent.

Defense and shooting are the two most important skills on the wing; by improving these, he has carved out a role in the Blazers rotation. If he can improve his passing and diversify his offense, he has potential as a main rotation player in the future.

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