When the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Anfernee Simons with the 24th pick in the 2018 NBA draft, some experts said he might have been the steal of the draft. To date, he has not quite lived up to those takes, but that does not mean he does not have the potential to do so down the road. The craziest part is it may come sooner than you think.
In the game two loss to the Denver Nuggets, Simons was less than impressive, but he showed a clear intensity and glimmers of what is to come in game one. The 21-year old guard clocked in with 14 points on an efficient 83.3 FG% to go along with four rebounds and two assists.
If he can return to that form heading into game three, he can bolster a rather thin Blazers bench that in Terry Stotts limited eight-man rotation only features Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter as well.
His teammates have high praise for him, especially team leader Damian Lillard, who, in a post-game interview back in 2019, only had positive things to say about the backup guard.
"“He puts the time in. He doesn’t complain,” Lillard said. “I think he has a lot of qualities about him that made me believe if he keeps working and keeps developing, I think when I’m on my way out, y’all will be talking to him every game.”"
Simons’s expectations are at a high on the offensive end of the floor in the immediate term. Denver has made it clear that they intend to use Aaron Gordon to guard Lillard for the remainder of the series. This means that while on the floor, he has the opportunity to exploit a much more favorable matchup against either Facundo Campazzo or Austin Rivers moving forward.
He has proven in the past that he has the intangibles to punish lower-tier defenders with efficient shooting from beyond the arc when they play off him. When they play tight against him, he has the athleticism and speed to blow by either defender and take it straight to the rim.
However, he has to prove he can be a consistent scoring threat instead of the streaky shooter that he is right now with all this in mind. For example, between May 7th and May 12th, he had a combined 28.13 FG%. Versus between May 13th and May 22nd, he had a combined 61.1 FG%.
For obvious reasons, these significant swings can greatly affect the overall performance of the Blazers moving forward. However, with an unrelenting Denver team on the other end of the floor, the bench has to step up, and Simons is the key variable in that.
He has yet to prove he is as reliable as his veteran counterparts in Anthony and Kanter, but should he continue to play at a high level, it is only a matter of time until he will.
General Manager Neil Olshey took a calculated risk when he opted to trade away fan-favorite Gary Trent Jr. instead of Simons in the deal to bring in Norman Powell. Now he has to prove that Olshey made the correct choice.