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Despite the Blazers’ Loss, Anfernee Simons Got to His Spots

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Blazer’s Edge contributors Steve Dewald and Miles Custis share their observations and analysis from the Trail Blazers 93-73 to the Piston.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 2 - Portland Trail Blazers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers opened their 2019 Las Vegas Summer League stint with a 93-73 loss to the Pistons. Detroit’s shooters took advantage of Portland’s late rotations on the perimeter and connected on 15 three-pointers. Trailing by double-digits for long stretches, the Blazers were unable to put together enough stops to complete a comeback. Anfernee Simons showed off his favorite midrange moves, but struggled at times against the Pistons’ rotation of sturdy guards.

Providing analysis directly from Las Vegas, Blazer’s Edge contributors Steve Dewald and Miles Custis exchanged their thoughts on the Blazers’ result against the Pistons.

With Anfernee Simons’ increased role looming in the distance, what did you make of his performance to start Summer League?

Steve: This competition is a perfect stage to showcase Simons’ elite ability to create space for his own shot. He routinely got to his favorite midrange spots and produced unimpeded attempts. Unfortunately for the Blazers, not all of those looks connected. Defensively, Simons did a serviceable job stymying the point of attack in transition. However, his work on the break wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of communication and rotations away from the ball.

Facing a sturdy defense-first guard like Bruce Brown was a good test for Simons. Despite playing against the former Hurricanes stalwart for long stretches, Simons only committed two turnovers.

Miles: He looked pretty smooth getting his own shot, but he wasn’t able to get his teammates involved at all. He had only one assist and didn’t seem to be looking for the open man very consistently. This could be a byproduct of playing with a bunch of new teammates—the team overall didn’t play with much cohesion.

Defensively, he was a mixed bag. Brown blew by him on the first possession of the game, but he held up better after that. He looked stronger defending the post a couple times.

What did you make of Nassir Little’s debut in a Blazers’ jersey?

Steve: It was a rough start of Little on offense. He missed his first open three-point attempt and too often muddled Portland’s spacing by creeping towards the paint. In the second half, Little’s shot selection was less than ideal. On one sequence he took the first pass made in a half-court set to produce a driving midrange shot that clanked off the rim. Those are the type of plays that Little will have to remove from his arsenal if he hopes to earn meaningful minutes in coach Terry Stotts’ lineup.

Miles: I was disappointed he didn’t play more often with Simons and Gary Tent Jr. He was mostly absent on offense and seemed uncertain what to do with the ball at times. His defense and effort, however, were solid. He hustled after loose balls and helped secure several extra possessions for Portland.

Outside of Simons and Little, what other players under contract caught your eye?

Steve: Regardless of the final score, I thought Jaylen Hoard had a solid debut. Billed as a high-level rebounder, it wasn’t surprising to see the former Wake Forest standout effectively position himself to corral rebounds. His ball handling in transition was a shock, though. Hoard showed he can generate transition opportunities by getting the ball up the court quickly after defensive rebounds.

Miles: I was hoping for more from Gary Trent Jr. He wasn’t able to create space for his shot as well as Simons. When he did get a shot off it wasn’t falling. Just like Simons, Trent did not do much to help others get good shots either. This was a problem overall for the Trail Blazers who ended with a total of seven assists on their 24 made baskets. Detroit’s starting point guard Bruce Brown had more assists than Portland, 10, by himself.

Positive or negative, what non-contract player stood out for you?

Steve: Devin Robinson has all the tools and athleticism to thrive in the NBA, but his notable issues off the court have sidetracked his journey. The former Wizards two-way contract player produced a highlight-worthy block in the first half and covered multiple positions during his time on the floor. Robinson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds against the Pistons.

Miles: With Skal Labissiere not playing, Portland’s big men didn’t make much of an impact. Starting center Jarnell Stokes tried several times to bully his way to the basket with not much to show for it besides some blocked shots and turnovers. His overall defense wasn’t solid, though he did have a couple blocks. Robinson had the play of the game with a double-pump dunk that brought the Blazer fans in attendance to their feet. He was called for a technical for hanging on the rim though.

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The Blazers return to action in Las Vegas on Sunday against the Rockets.