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Draft Grades for Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.

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Experts weigh in on what they think of Portland’s selections.

2018 Hoophall Classic: Vermont Academy vs IMG Post Grad National David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers selected Anfernee Simons No. 24 overall and acquired the rights to No. 37 overall pick Gary Trent Jr. on NBA Draft night. Both prospects came in for pre-draft workouts, with Simons making two stops — the only player to do so for Portland. Let’s see how experts around the basketball community grade Portland’s two new draftees.

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports

Anfernee Simons (analysis, no grade)

They went out and not only did they get another small guard, a small guard that nobody thinks can even play in the NBA.

Reid Forgrave, CBS Sports

Anfernee Simons: C

Athletic offensive player who has a whole lot of unknowns. How does this fit with the Blazers? Their immediate needs definitely aren’t for an offensive-minded guard. But this isn’t an immediate-needs pick. Simons has upside, at least.

Gary Trent Jr.: B

Trent will play for the Blazers, where he’s yet another offensive-minded guard. But he’s got the tools to develop long term. Perhaps the Blazers can use Anfernee Simons and Trent to push each other as rookies and second-year players.

Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report

Anfernee Simons: B-

He’s very skinny, he’s very raw, but also skilled.

Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer

Anfernee Simons: B

Forget the international players. Simons is the real mystery man in this year’s draft. He declared for the draft after his fifth year of high school, and he didn’t compete in any of the all-star games against the top players in next year’s freshman class. Simons, an athletic combo guard with a projectable outside shot, certainly has talent, but he seems all but certain to spend the next few seasons in the G League.

Michael Singer, USA Today

Anfernee Simons: C

Simons has potential as a two guard, but he’s also several years away from consistently contributing at the NBA level. He needs to mature physically in order to compete on the defensive end after spending a year at IMG Academy instead of college.

Adam Formal, Bleacher Report

Anfernee Simons: C-

The Portland Trail Blazers finally proved just how well the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum pairing could work in their backcourt. By placing strong stoppers all around them and getting the guards to buy in and develop as pick-and-roll defenders, they eliminated that primary weakness and elevated the team’s ceiling. Sure, it didn’t work in a first-round sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans, but the duo was successful enough that it should’ve ended concerns about the backcourt’s long-term feasibility.

Naturally, that means Rip City took a guard. And a project, nonetheless.

Anfernee Simons has immense upside as a scorer, but he’s a 19-year-old without a game of experience above high school. He also weighs just a hair over 180 pounds despite boasting a 6’3” frame with a wingspan slightly above 6’9”. Until he hits the gym with NBA supervision, shores up his shot selection and proves he can body up against professional guards, it’ll be tough to justify handing him any minutes that come at the expense of Lillard and McCollum—or Shabazz Napier, if the free agent is retained.

Portland should still be trying to compete right now, and taking a wing or big was the advisable course. If the Blazers were set on adding depth at the 1 or 2, they needed to go after a bigger prospect who was also ready to contribute more from Day 1—admittedly, a tough ask this deep into the first round.

Gary Trent Jr.: F

As Wojnarowski reported, the Portland Trail Blazers wound up with Gary Trent Jr. by trading with the Sacramento Kings. And whereas their first pick (Simons) was a raw point guard who will have to develop behind Lillard, their second selection is...a raw shooting guard who will have to develop behind McCollum.

Yay for consistency?

Again, the Blazers’ thinking is a bit baffling. Talented as Trent may be—primarily operating as a sharpshooter who connected on 40.2 percent of his treys as a Duke freshman—he’s a remarkably poor defender who was constantly targeted by opponents throughout his brief collegiate career. That won’t change in Rip City, and you’ll likely see one foe after another get him caught in a switch before running a clear-out set that exploits his limited lateral mobility and shaky foot speed.

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation

Anfernee Simons: B

Simons is an intriguing upside player as a fifth-year high school guard with great bounce and some upside as an off-the-dribble shooter. He badly needs to add strength. He could be a valuable offensive player down the road, but he’s another small guard who doesn’t plY much defense for Portland. Does this mean C.J. McCollum is getting traded one day?

Chris Stone, Sporting News

Anfernee Simons: C

Portland brought Simons in for a second workout late in the pre-draft process, signaling the Blazers’ affinity for the high school prospect. Our No. 36-ranked player, Simons is a long-term development prospect having played for IMG Academy in a post-graduate year this season.

The 19-year-old intrigues NBA front offices because of his ability to create his own shot at all three levels offensively. It’s easy to be skeptical of his potential to ever develop into a meaningful rotation player.

Gary Trent Jr.: B

Trent will bring some much-needed shooting to the franchise. He converted 40.2 percent of his attempts as a freshman. Defensively, there are concerns about Trent’s foot speed and technique. There are worse propositions than betting on prospects who can shoot in this range.

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated

Anfernee Simons: C-

While Simons is certainly talented and is a worthwhile stash for the Trail Blazers, this pick comes as a surprise and perhaps an attempt to preserve roster flexibility given that Portland’s cap situation is so tight. He will be a long-term project and needs to spend time in the G League. Given that the Blazers have no G League affiliate, he will need to be sent to another team’s development program and be carefully placed into a situation that makes sense for him to gain seasoning. This could prove to be shrewd by the time Simons is 23, but also may wind up as an unnecessary risk given the others on the board.

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic (subscription required)

Anfernee Simons (analysis, no grade)

The Blazers have been infatuated by the idea of Simons throughout the process, and even brought him in for a second workout during draft week before making their final decision on him. And look, the ceiling is substantial. Simons is a quick-twitch athlete who can sky above the basket and make plays off the dribble. He also worked out for as many teams and as many times as any player in the draft, and for a guy who could have hidden throughout the process and only picked and chosen his spots, there’s something to be said for his fearlessness.

But the downside here is also real. Simons is still growing into his body, isn’t quite a consistent enough shooter yet for anyone to feel certainty about his upside there, and hasn’t really ever played high-level defense at any level. Also, he doesn’t really fit any sort of need on this wing-bereft roster, and there were several available that could have helped the Blazers possibly even next season — such as Jacob Evans and Melvin Frazier. Ultimately though, this is a Neil Olshey bet on Simons having far more upside than anyone else in this range. His skills as an evaluator will be put to the test on this one. We’ll see if he’s right, or if he just used another pick for the second year in a row on a player that wasn’t a wing for a team that badly needs them.

Tim Bontemps, The Washington Post

Winner: Anfernee Simons

My colleague Rick Maese chronicled Simons’ decision to go to IMG instead of college, and the decision paid off in the end. While Simons was seen as a fringe first-rounder, going 24th to Portland could inspire other players to consider taking his same path.

Even if they don’t, Simons deserves credit for doing it — and getting a guaranteed contract as a result.

Loser: The Portland Trail Blazers

Perhaps Simons will become a terrific player. And maybe Gary Trent Jr. will work out. But with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in their primes, Portland needed to find players who could help them immediately. Such players were on the board at Nos. 24 and 37, where they got Simons and Trent.

This is similar to Portland taking Zach Collins with the No. 10 pick a year ago. All three could become good players. But on a team with two guards ready to win now, immediate help didn’t to be a priority. And General Manager Neil Olshey’s post-draft insistence that finding a player in the second round who can contribute to a winning team is not possible, to be honest, fell flat.

Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated

Loser: Blazers

Portland president Neil Olshey has tried to pan for gold with long-term draft projects during his tenure, and he went down that path again by selecting Anfernee Simons, a 19-year-old guard who didn’t play college ball. Simons doesn’t address a positional need, he will likely struggle to find rotation minutes in the next year or two, and his slight frame needs serious work.

While fellow West playoff teams like the Warriors and Timberwolves logically added three-and-d wings who will likely be able to contribute immediately, the Blazers will have to upgrade one of the league’s worst wing rotations via trade or free agency, where Olshey has largely fizzled. Portland pledged to upgrade its personnel following an embarrassing playoff sweep against New Orleans but made zero progress on Thursday.