In 2018, the NBA landscape was introduced to a cohort of fresh, young talent that would go on to redefine the game as we know it. Fast forward to 2023, and we have the chance to look back and re-evaluate these picks with the benefit of hindsight. Of particular interest in this retrospective is Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, a player whose growth and development has caught the attention of fans and analysts alike.
The 2018 NBA Draft headliners
Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, and Luka Dončić headlined the original 2018 draft. Ayton, picked No. 1 by the Phoenix Suns, has proven himself a dominant center and helped transform the Suns into serious title contenders.
While showing promise with the Kings, Bagley has been hampered by injuries.
However, Dončić, selected third overall by the Dallas Mavericks, has set the league on fire. Dončić’s incredible talent and game intelligence have made him one of the NBA’s marquee players.
Another standout is Trae Young, the fifth overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks (and subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Luka), who is leading his team with his fantastic scoring ability and playmaking skills. Young’s superb performances in the playoffs have added to his already impressive resume.
Where Anfernee Simons was originally drafted
In the middle of this prestigious class, the 24th pick went to the Portland Trail Blazers, who decided to bet on a young, explosive guard from IMG Academy – Anfernee Simons. The decision was met with skepticism. While Simons possessed raw athleticism and shooting ability, he was viewed as a long-term project.
However, the Blazers investment has paid off.
Over the past few seasons, Simons has evolved from a reserve player into a prominent figure in the Trail Blazers system. His scoring average has consistently risen, now to more than 20 points per game.
His most significant improvement, however, has been his playmaking skills and leadership on the court. In many ways, Simons is becoming the player the Trail Blazers envisioned when they took a chance on him in 2018.
Redrafting the 2018 NBA Draft
Imagine a redraft scenario based on how great each player has turned out to be. With our 20/20 hindsight vision, how would the order change, and how high would Simons climb?
No. 1: Luka Dončić – Phoenix Suns | Original Pick: Deandre Ayton
No. 2: Trae Young – Sacramento Kings | Original Pick: Marvin Bagley III
No. 3: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Atlanta Hawks (via Mavericks) | Original Pick: Luka Dončić
No. 4: Jaren Jackson Jr. – Memphis Grizzlies | Original Pick: Jaren Jackson Jr.
No. 5: Deandre Ayton – Dallas Mavericks (via Hawks) | Original Pick: Trae Young
No. 6: Michael Porter Jr. – Orlando Magic | Original Pick: Mo Bamba
No. 7: Jalen Brunson – Chicago Bulls | Original Pick: Wendell Carter Jr.
No. 8: Mikal Bridges – Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn via Boston) | Original Pick: Collin Sexton
No. 9: Anfernee Simons – New York Knicks | Original Pick: Kevin Knox II
In this redraft, Dončić takes the top spot with his outstanding career progression, and Young moves up to the second pick due to his significant impact on the Hawks. Ayton falls to the fifth spot but stays in the top five because of his crucial role in the Suns’ resurgence.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. jumped because of their strong performances in the past few seasons. Jalen Brunson moves all the way up to spot seven after his breakout season as the starting point guard for the New York Knicks last year.
Mikal Bridges has blossomed into a premier three-and-D wing who can carry an offensive load. Jaren Jackson Jr. stays at number four after winning last season’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
And there, at the ninth spot, we find Simons. From 24th to ninth is a significant climb and a testament to his growth as a player. He now ranks among the elite names of the 2018 class.
Re-drafting can always be a contentious task. Players develop at different paces, and team needs can vary drastically. However, it is undeniable that Simons has grown significantly since the 2018 draft, far exceeding the expectations of the 24th pick. With his growth trajectory, it’s thrilling to imagine where he might end up in a few more years.