The 2018 NBA Draft featured now-heavyweight names like Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Deandre Ayton. It also saw the Portland Trail Blazers take upside swings on two young guards, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.
In a fun offseason exercise, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey “re-drafted” the 2018 first round with the gift of four seasons of hindsight, seeing how things shake up. Bailey assesses Portland’s scouting department nailed it that offseason, with both Blazers prospects rising high compared to their initial value.
Simons, a raw prospect at the time selected with the 24th pick out of IMG Academy, leaped all the way to the 10th pick in the Re-Draft. Bailey said the high placement may seem a little premature, but Simons’ offensive firepower was that good last season.
Launching Anfernee Simons into the top 10 after only 35 career starts and one season with a double-digit scoring average may seem premature, but that’s how explosive of a creator he was in 2021-22.
After Damian Lillard left the Portland Trail Blazers’ rotation with an abdominal injury, Simons averaged 23.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 threes while shooting 42.3 percent from three. He rose to the role of No. 1 scorer and then some.
The kind of self-creation Simons showed carries a ton of value in today’s NBA.
The fact that he spent much of his first three seasons playing alongside other guards is encouraging, too. His 6’9” wingspan allows him to play on the wing and up the playmaking quotient in any lineup.
Simons may never be an above-average defender, but his offense should make up for that. The Blazers’ net rating was 10.6 points better with him was on the floor in 2021-22.
Simons’ rookie class teammate, Trent Jr., now a member of the Toronto Raptors, also rose 14 spots in the Re-Draft. Taken with the 37th pick in the second round, Trent Jr. rose to the 23rd spot. Bailey cited Trent Jr.’s scoring knack and potential to improve — he’s still just 23 — for the ranking and why he was one spot higher than Grayson Allen.
Allen’s teammate from Duke, Gary Trent Jr., has scored a bit more over the last three seasons, but he lags behind in terms of efficiency and catch-all metrics. There are a few reasons he gets the nod over Allen in the re-draft.
First, and perhaps most importantly, Trent is more than three years younger than Allen. That’s a lot of time in the world of NBA development. It isn’t hard to imagine him refining his shot (and shot profile) to at least where Allen’s is by the time he’s 26.
Trent’s other advantage over Allen is an extra inch-and-a-half in wingspan. In today’s switch-heavy NBA, even a little additional length can go a long way on defense.
Trent Jr.’s rise in the Re-Draft is another testament to former Portland general manager Neil Olshey’s reputation as a second round gem-finder. Other notable second round selections during Olshey’s 10-year tenure include Pat Connaughton and Will Barton.
Trent Jr.’s departure at the trade deadline of his third season also continues the trend of Olshey not retaining these selections for too long. Barton was traded during his third season to the Denver Nuggets. Connaughton left in free agency after his third year, going on to become a vital role player for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Elsewhere in Bailey’s Re-Draft, unsurprisingly, Doncic was taken with the first overall pick.