Even though the Portland Trail Blazers have been up and down so far in their 2021-22 NBA Season, two players have risen to the top of their respective expectations charts: Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little. Both young players have found themselves with increased roles, playing 20+ minutes per game, appearing in all 16 of Portland’s contests. An 8-8 record can’t dim their light; these guys are exciting.
Let’s pretend for a day that other NBA Executives have also noticed the performances of Little and Simons. Here’s a hypothetical scenario:
Random NBA General Manager X calls up the Blazers and says, “We’ve got a sweet deal for you. You can have our superstar player for a package that includes... [insert either Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little here].”
For purposes of this exercise, it doesn’t matter who the opposing team is or what the return package entails. Let’s just assume that it’s a can’t-miss deal that will vault the Blazers into contention right now. The Blazers pretty much have to do this.
Here’s the question: which of those two young players would you rather throw into the deal and which would you rather keep?
The exercise forces you to trade one or the other unless you’re going to take the stance that Little and Simons will lead the Blazers into contention on their own over the next few years. If you’re going to say, “We won’t release them at any price,” keep in mind the age and composition of the rest of the roster. Eventually the players around Little and Simons are going to start peeling off from the franchise, leaving those two as the core veterans, should you keep them.
Basically you’ve got three choices:
- Trade Little and keep Simons
- Trade Simons and keep Little
- Not even title shots for Damian Lillard over the next 2-3 years would cause me to trade either of them
Which option do you take and why?
Simons is 22, averaging 11.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 22.3 minutes per game, shooting 45.5% from the floor and 36.9% from the three-point arc.
Little is 21, averaging 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game, shooting 46.9% from the floor and 30.6% from the three-point arc.
Both are on rookie-scale contracts with decisions on larger deals coming up soon.