Today we’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday by running down the Top 5 stories in the Blazers season so far. You may think that a .500-esque record wouldn’t leave many distinct points to talk about. You’d be wrong. Check throughout the day as we unveil (and invite you to examine) the trends typifying Portland’s year to this point.
We continue the series with the #4 factor: Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little. Not only have the two young players become regular parts of Portland’s rotation, they’ve excelled.
Simons has struggled a bit trying to fill his new role as backup point guard behind Damian Lillard. His assist percentage has risen, but it’s still not stellar. When he can come off screens, catch and shoot, or soar, though, Simons is instant offense. Don’t let his 36.6% three-point shooting percentage fool you. He’s in a slump. Before, he was deadly from range. He will be again soon. The minute he’s given the type of reps and role that his more experienced teammates have, he’s going to explode. He’s also become a more complete player on defense. The investment that Head Coach Chauncey Billups has made in Simons is beginning to pay off.
That’s doubly so for Little, who had even less security coming into the season but has blossomed into an even more dependable player. Little starts with a presumption of aggression on every possession, then works from there. He skies high for blocks and dunks, He mans up against any opponent on defense. He will pick your pocket, then streak for the transition jam all on his own. His game is typified by an utter fearlessness that, once again, gives credit to Coach Billups, who appears to be growing ever more confident in the third-year forward’s reliability.
Little is shooting 49% from the floor so far this year. If he ever evolves his three-point shot beyond its current 32% status, watch out.
Together, Little and Simons have provided a bright spot in Portland’s otherwise-rather-dull season. If their more experienced teammates ever get it into gear, the production of these young bench players could make Portland a credible threat.
Stay tuned for the three remaining key stories. Share your thoughts on Little and Simons and/or guess the remaining topics in the comment section!