Portland Trail Blazers’ guard Anfernee Simons seems to be gaining an increased role within the Blazers organization according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Simons has seen increased time at the backup point guard position throughout training camp.
In recent years the Blazers have employed CJ McCollum as the backup point guard while Damian Lillard rests, but that seems subject to change. So far in his career, Simons has had most of his minutes come from the backup shooting guard position, but head coach Chauncey Billups has said he wants Simons to work more as the point guard of the second unit than he has previously.
The Blazers haven’t had a traditional backup point guard since Shabazz Napier in 2018. Instead, McCollum has served admirably running the team while Damian Lillard rests. But on Wednesday, when Billups was asked if he still envisioned McCollum as the team’s primary backup, he was emphatic.
“Nah,” Billups said. “I want CJ and Ant to be playing some backup point guard. A lot of my conversations with (Simons) is about that — him being able to play a lot of backup point guard minutes, you know, running the show.”
Simons has mentioned that he feels like a bigger part of the offense than he has been in the past. He told Quick that he feels more comfortable within the role than he ever has before.
“When I did run plays, it was to get somebody else the ball,” Simons said. “So it didn’t really feel like a point guard, you know what I mean? I wasn’t really treated as such, I was more of a two-guard who came in and ran a play for somebody else. Now, based on the offense and stuff, it’s more predicated on what I want to do. Like, I have more freedom to be aggressive when I can.”
Billups said that he has tried to stress the importance of Simons developing his playmaking ability, comparing him to the Blazers’ third year wing Nassir Little. Billups has said he has been pushing both players to work on parts of their game other than scoring.
“I’ve been on him, trying to make him a better playmaker,” Billups said. “And guys like him and Nas, who are kind of finding their way, I don’t want them to think that scoring baskets is the only way they are going to stay on the floor. Because that ends up making you shoot a lot of bad shots, take a lot of chances. It’s not going to be (scoring) that keeps you on the floor. Love that, being able to shoot and stuff, but they have to be some of the hardest-playing dudes on the floor. They have to do some of those kinds of things. I think we have a pretty good understanding.”