The dust has settled from the Trial Blazers’ exit from postseason competition. Free agency, roster construction and the NBA Draft have crept into everyday conversation in Rip City. Before we turn the page on the longest season in the Blazers’ 50-year history, let’s take another look at the players that populated the roster during that journey.
Our most-recent installment looked at the exciting play of versatile big man Wenyen Gabriel. Today’s post focuses on the ups and downs Anfernee Simons endured during his second season in the NBA.
Games: 70 (4 starts) | PTS: 8.3 | REB: 2.2 | AST: 1.4 | FG%: 39.9
Thanks to a heroic performance in final game of the 2018-19 season and a handful of over-the-top compliments from President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, second-year guard Anfernee Simons entered the season with a reasonable amount of hype attached to his name.
Through the first ten games of the 2019-20 campaign, it appeared that Simons was set to deliver on those lofty expectations. Averaging 20 minutes a night off the bench, Simons’ 11.9 points per game to start the season was the fourth-best output on the entire Blazers’ squad. That opening stretch served as the high point for his second season, as teams quickly scouted and adapted to his strengths. Outside of offensive struggles, Simons’ season-long battle with foul trouble surfaced as the November slate of games came to a close.
Despite those struggles, Portland’s issues with depth prevented a significant reduction in Simons’ playing time. His efficiency and counting numbers did decrease significantly, though. In his final 55 regular season outings, the former IMG Academy star averaged 8.2 points per game and connected on 38.2 percent of his shots from the floor. Inside the bubble, Simons made only small appearances before undertaking a larger role against the Lakers.
A combination of unreachable hype and a tough learning curve should play into speculation this offseason for Simons. Outside of those two items, the rapid rise of fellow 2018 draftee Gary Trent Jr. will fuel concerns when comparing the development of the two young guards side by side.
In regards to the comparisons between Simons and Trent, I ask concerned readers to pause for just a moment and consider a food analogy. A developing 3-and-D wing is like a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Once the ingredients are in the mixing bowl, it tastes good right away. Seriously, I will risk the dangers of raw egg in cookie dough any day of the week. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the development of a shot-creating lead guard, a position that often lines up across from the craftiest players in the NBA night after night. That role is more like making rice without a set-and-forget rice cooker. The ingredients are there, but it is a stiff, tasteless combo of water and tough grains until it finally reaches completion. But once the rice is done, it is the perfect complement to almost any meal.
The moves that the Trail Blazers pursue this offseason should indicate how patient Portland intends to be with Simons’ development. Struggles aside, Simons possesses elite-level athleticism and the length to smother both backcourt positions (barring foul trouble). Trent was hands down the second-year darling, but Simons has the skill set to make up ground in a hurry.