Candidate No. 3: Anfernee Simons
The 24th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Anfernee Simons has proven to be a steal for the Blazers. Simons had a quietly productive season last year, averaging 21.1 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds on 45/38/89 shooting splits.
The case for Simons
Simons has become an under-the-radar player who should only continue to improve next season. He’s still only 24 and will be given plenty of opportunity to become a focal point of the franchise, especially with the seemingly inevitable Lillard trade.
While the Blazers are crowded at the guard position with Henderson, Sharpe and Simons, the one most capable of playing both roles as a combo guard is Simons. He possesses the best combination of shooting and playmaking out of the three.
The main advantage Simons will have over the other two players will be his elite shot-making ability. With Henderson and Sharpe’s ability to drive and cause the defense to collapse, Simons could be the primary beneficiary of many open looks. There’s a reasonable path to Simons averaging more than 25 points a game in the coming seasons.
Don’t count out Simons as the Blazers best player. In the next five years, he’ll be in the midst of his prime. He’s talented enough to become an All-Star in the coming seasons with increased opportunity.
The case against Simons
The case against Simons is his lack of potential as a two-way player due to his frame. The pairing of Lillard and Simons was never ideal because they both are undersized and somewhat negative defenders. Because of his overlapping skillset with Lillard and his below-average defense, Simons can frequently get overlooked.
He’ll have his chance to get more recognition this season but must improve on the defensive end. Last season, Simons had a negative defensive RAPTOR rating of -0.7.
Additionally, Simons needs to take that next step on offense and become a true playmaker and get others involved more. He can only be so impactful as a scorer and efficient shooter beyond the arc. He will likely never be a great defender, so he must contribute in multiple aspects on the offensive end to truly impact winning at a high level.
Compared to Henderson and Sharpe, Simons has already tapped into most of his potential. While Simons’ numbers should improve again this season due to his increased opportunity, he is more of a finished product than the others. Five years from now, he could be a similar player to what he currently is.