The NBA off season can be an anxious time for basketball fans. Teams are making deals and trades, beloved players are leaving, and others are being acquired. This is the part of the year that I always dread. For me, basketball isn’t just about wins and losses (although I definitely want to win). Season after season I am intensely invested in our players as individuals. I want to know their stories. So the trade season feels a little like someone in my family is dying and we are adopting someone new to replace them. Dramatic? Maybe.
For Blazers fans, it’s been a great off season. Neil Olshey and the front office moved quickly and worked to fill holes we had last season. The trades made sense and I have to admit, I’m not sad at the outcome. The majority of Rip City seems to agree with me and the chatter from fans surrounding the off season seems to be mostly positive.
Even after the moves, there still seems to be one looming question— What about a backup Point Guard? Damian Lillard has led Portland in the position and has emerged as a star, making it easy to overlook the player coming off the bench.
In his media availability on December 1, Lillard spoke about Anfernee Simons and his role going forward with he Trail Blazers.
Lillard stated that the team already has a backup point guard in Simons. Lillard talked about working out with the same trainer as the young player, and how he felt the third-year guard is “super talented” and deserves the chance. Dame pointed out that coming into the league and finding your place “takes time” and that Simons didn’t play in college, but that he’s been proving that he can help the team.
While Rip City seems happy overall with the moves that have been made, fans seem to be split on where Simons fits in, some saying Portland should have picked up a veteran guard with the last available roster spot, others are anxious to see Ant take that role.
Simons isn’t a perfect answer for backup Point Guard, but some things about him shine. He’s smart. He knows the game and knows his place on the floor. If you watch him move around the court, he seems to be exactly where he should be most of the time, even if a play isn’t successful or the ball doesn’t go in the basket.
I also like the fact that Simons is fast. He's really fast, an athlete in every sense of the word. He’s able to create his own space and use that speed to his advantage, and he rarely turns the ball over. He’s not a true Point guard, having played shooting guard for most of his early career, but at his core, he's a scoring ball handler.
I’ll be honest, even before Dame’s media availability, I was sold on the idea of Simons as our back up point. I’ve been on the Anfernee Simons train since Portland drafted him in 2018. He’s young, he has raw talent. I’m not confident in his ability to carry an entire team the way Dame often does, although truthfully, how many guys in the NBA—even veterans— could carry a team the way Dame does? Probably only a few. But I think he will play a backup role just fine.
I anticipate that Lillard will play at least 35 minutes a game, and CJ McCollum will slide over into the Point Guard position from time to time, which really doesn’t leave a big role for a Point Guard coming off the bench. I love the idea of a veteran player in that role, but at what cost? What would we have to give up to get a player like that? Simons has been with the team for three years. His entire NBA identity has been shaped by this team—He knows the guys, he knows the offense, and in Portland that matters. Chemistry is such a huge part of what drives this team, and Ant already has that.
I can see Simons having a bright future in Portland, and I think this year will be a pivotal year for him. He’s still young, and he has some growing and maturing as a player still ahead of him, but if he can lean into this role, I think we will see some good things from him in the future. Let’s be honest, if Damian Lillard thinks he can do the job, who am I to argue? In Dame’s own words, “I believe in Ant.”