1. Anfernee Simons is the Portland Trail Blazers’ best player
Anfernee Simons’ first quarter against the Utah Jazz captured the evolution of his game. He began the game with an isolation against Lauri Markannen and drilled a step-back elbow jump shot. A minute later, he hit a left-wing triple in transition.
Then Scoot Henderson found him on the right wing in transition for a catch-and-shoot three. Back on the left wing, Simons connected on a deep three after a swing pass from Henderson.
Simons’ first quarter explosion – 18 points on 7 of 8 shooting – commenced a masterful offensive performance from the sixth-year guard. Displaying his versatile shot-making, he scored at all three levels en route to a hyper-efficient 29-point outing.
Without Lillard ahead of him on the depth chart, Simons is in line for his highest usage as a Blazer. In 11 games without Lillard last year, Simons posted averages of 27.9 points, 5.7 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 46/41/94. He’s already proved himself as an efficient scorer, but he’ll have a chance to increase his volume and playmaking load by taking the reins from Lillard as the Blazers’ offensive leader.
As the team’s newest franchise point guard, Henderson projects to have a heavy workload. However, as the more polished guard, expect Simons to cement himself as the team’s first option on offense to help ease Henderson into his role.
Simons’ evolution as an offensive player should have fans excited about seeing him take on a larger role. No longer just a shooter, Simons has refined his ability to operate in pick-and-roll situations, leverage his quickness to score in the paint and spray kick-out passes to shooters.
In short stints with Lillard injured, Simons has driven efficient offenses as the Trail Blazers’ primary playmaker. This season will test the sustainability of Simons’ high-level offense without Lillard on the floor and reveal how much more potential the Blazers can tap into by elevating his usage.