The Portland Trail Blazers have provided more questions than answers this season but one thing has been clear: Anfernee Simons is the future. Between reports that Simons was deemed untouchable by Portland’s front office and that the team still intends to build around Damian Lillard, it’s safe to assume that the Blazers have their new backcourt tandem already in-house.
Fans have suggested that Simons return to the bench upon Lillard’s arrival and act as a superpowered sixth man, worried Portland will run into the same issues they did with the Dame-CJ McCollum backcourt if he were to start at the two slot.
Ant has already proven to be a more willing and active passer than CJ, as well as a more committed off-ball weapon. Just like with Dame’s old shooting guard, the distress isn’t over their fit together on offense but whether or not they’ll be able to generate enough stops on the defensive end to be a true contender.
The defensive concerns over a Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons backcourt are overstated
It’s not unreasonable to be worried about the new backcourt tandem’s defensive ceiling but I’m here to alleviate these concerns.
Let’s start by stating the obvious: Anfernee Simons will assuredly not return to the bench.
Since the calendar flipped to 2022 and Damian Lillard underwent abdominal surgery, Anfernee Simons has absolutely arrived as a star in this league. He’s put up 23.6 points and 6.1 assists per game in 23 outings, while scorching the nets at a 46 percent rate from the field and 41 percent from deep with over 10 attempts per contest according to statmuse.
Stashing that kind of production on the pine would be undeniable mismanagement.
Not only is Simons too valuable to come off the bench, but he’ll also likely be too expensive. As Andy Bailey of BleacherReport wrote:
"“A player who can create both for himself and others is valuable in today’s NBA, and Simons is showing exactly that kind of modern lead guard skill set. Someone other than the Portland Trail Blazers is going to be interested in adding that.”"
Portland has the option of matching any offer sheet that Ant receives in restricted free agency, but that figure will certainly be larger than comfortable for a sixth man.