We’re still not yet a quarter of the way through the 2019-20 NBA season, but Anfernee Simons is starting to make a name for himself in the league’s hierarchy. A non-factor as a rookie, the youngster has suddenly become the top scoring option for the Portland Trail Blazers off of their bench—a bright spot for the team in the wake of a difficult start to their season thus far.
This week on Blazer’s Edge Radio, hosts Ryne Buchanan and Sam Arnold argue that the 20-year-old should be in the early discussion for the league’s annual Most Improved Player award. The honor has been bestowed upon three different Blazers previously, most recently CJ McCollum in 2016.
Simons will face tough competition, including the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, among other early standouts. He may not finish the year with as impressive a stat-line as some of his competitors, but the fact that he has gone from non-rotation player to sixth-man in a single season should work in his favor.
The guys agreed that the key for Simons will be to continue to step-up in prime-time moments, such as last Thursday’s nationally-televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers, when he went toe-to-toe with Kawhi Leonard in the fourth quarter. He will also likely be involved in some capacity at All-Star weekend, another chance to showcase his talents on a national level.
For now, however, the sophomore will look to keep improving game-by-game. Prior to last night, he had scored in double-figures in all but three games this season, all in October, and is averaging over 20 minutes per game. He has shot the ball well, while also demonstrating an improving passing ability and serviceable defense. If he can keep it up, there’s no reason he can’t be one of the top MIP candidates at the end of the year.
You can tune-in live to Blazer’s Edge Radio every Tuesday at 12 p.m. PT on XRAY FM, accessible at 107.1 FM in the Portland area or worldwide online at xray.fm.
Catch an archived version of this week’s episode here.