Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons is the favorite to win the league’s Most Improved Player of the Year award.
A big reason why he’s become the favorite is the team’s decision to move on from C.J. McCollum at the trade deadline. McCollum’s absence has made Simons the primary creator and the only reliable source of offense.
Simons’ three-point volume is tremendous and he’s setting historic paces in some of those categories.
Another reason to move on from McCollum at the deadline was to shuffle the deck and pair Simons with Damian Lillard, who will return next season from injury.
McCollum proved himself to be a strong costar, but Simons’ youth and upside made him the best option moving forward to try and restructure the Blazers.
In terms of scoring, Simons has proven that he can play well off the ball, which will come in handy when he shares the backcourt with Lillard next season.
However, his ability to create is the next item to check off the list.
McCollum was primarily an off-ball guard during his first few years in Portland, but once he started putting emphasis on his role as a playmaker, he began to reach new heights.
Last season, McCollum placed in the 89th percentile in isolation. Meanwhile, Simons ranked in just the 28th percentile. Granted, a lot of this can be traced to lack of opportunity, but it does spell out a room for improvement in Simons’ game.
If the Blazers can find a way to stagger Simons’ and Lillard’s minutes next season, one of them will always be on the floor. However, Simons needs to find ways to score on his own to truly elevate the Blazers moving forward and to prove that trading McCollum away was the right decision.