The Portland Trail Blazers play the Sacramento Kings tonight for the fourth game of their preseason schedule, which means Anfernee Simons will get another rep starting alongside franchise star Damian Lillard.
In a recent piece, Oregon Live reporter Aaron Fentress wrote how the preseason has served as an adjustment period for Simons as he adapts to a sidekick role.
Last season, the fourth-year guard exploded onto the scene in January as Portland’s No. 1 option after injuries and trades opened up opportunity. Now this October, with Lillard back in the lineup, Simons must play second-in-command.
In the small sample size of two games, Fentress noted the transition hasn’t been seamless.
Two preseason outings is hardly a fair barometer, but Simons has experienced some hiccups. In 53 minutes of action, Simons went 6 of 25 from the field and 4 of 14 on threes for 22 points, with three rebounds and three assists.
“I think I’m just trying to figure out how to play alongside Dame,” Simons said.
For nearly Lillard’s entire 10-season NBA career, he has been the focal point of Portland’s offense. He’s been the primary orchestrator of Portland’s pick-and-roll attack and allowed to cook or pull up from 35 feet whenever he feels like it. In scientific terms, the ball-dominant All-Star is the Sun which his teammates must orbit around.
For Simons, a scoring guard who also excels with the ball in his hands, making room for Lillard in the offense has been enough to affect his rhythm and decision-making.
Now, Lillard is back to controlling the ball and running the show. The fallout is that when Simons has the ball, he must decide whether to operate with either a point guard’s or shooting guard’s mentality. Does he shoot the pull-up three, drive the lane, or look for a slashing teammate? At times, he has been indecisive, which has affected his shooting rhythm.
“It’s just trying to figure out how to pick my spots as well as be myself and shoot the ball.” Simons said.
Despite the early shooting slump, as Simons gets more comfortable next to Lillard, Fentress wrote his offense should pick back up.
Simons’ shooting should come around. He shot 40.5% on threes last season and 42.6% the season before. He believes once he finds his fit with Lillard, the shots will fall.
“That’s probably the thing that I’m trying to figure out as we go through these preseason games,” Simons said.
The article also touched upon some positives from Simons’ preseason action, including defense and ball security.
You can read the full piece here.