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Anfernee Simons May Have Room to Grow with Trail Blazers

Some fans have given up on the sixth-year guard. Not so fast.

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

Of all the guards on the Portland Trail Blazers roster, Anfernee Simons is the easiest to overlook. For most of the spring of 2023, he was presumed to be the centerpiece of any trade the Blazers might make to build around All-Star Damian Lillard. Lillard’s trade request in early July dominated headlines throughout the summer. The few left behind got scooped up by newly-drafted point guard Scoot Henderson. Shaedon Sharpe and his eternal bounciness picked up crumbs from under the media table, leaving Simons outside the gate looking in despite an impressive 21.1 points per game scored last season.

Today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag picks up one of the rare questions about Simons and his future with the team.

Dear Dave,

Do you think Ant [Anfernee Simons] has anything left to show or have we seen the peak of his development?


Let’s assume that Simons remains with the team, else the point is moot. Let’s also assume that Lillard gets traded. That avoids an unholy logjam at guard, the resolution of which would simply leave Lillard and Simons in the same roles as last year.

Under those circumstances, I think this could be a growth year for Simons. That’s not going to be a popular opinion, but I hold it anyway.

First, and most obviously, Simons would become the veteran in the backcourt. He’d be able to intercede where he wished, for the good of himself and the team. He’d play a mix of on-ball and off. He’d also be the only major guard who could score at multiple levels. He’d become a mentor of sorts to Henderson and Sharpe. All of that would ensure he got plenty of touches.

A player’s sixth season should lie the prime of their careers, but Simons was drafted young (age 19) and has only played two years with starter’s minutes, only one above 30 minutes per game. Simons has reps to complete before we know 100% who he is. That’s about meaningful time on the court, not just role.

Defense is the major question mark. Simons isn’t a defensive stopper. We know that much. But defense is like Legos. Without something to connect to, the bricks are relatively meaningless.

Portland lacks a base plate defender, an All-NBA Defensive Team candidate. One of those would certainly help. But the story has been worse than that for Simons’ entire tenure. His Lego brick has been connecting to Jell-o on one side and worn studs on the other. He hasn’t helped with his own pudding performances, but there’s reason to hope that if, say, Scoot Henderson brings a bit of solidity and Nassir Little gets minutes at small forward, suddenly Simons has something to link to. His defense won’t be revolutionary, but it might get better.

None of this is guaranteed, of course. Maybe we have seen the best of Simons. There’s just reason to hope that perhaps we haven’t quite yet. He won’t become a whole new player, but he could become a better version of himself, with a couple of heretofore-hidden wrinkles besides. If the Blazers end up keeping him, it’s not a disaster. In fact, it may be mandatory considering how inexperienced the guards are alongside and behind him.

Thanks for the question! You can send yours in to and we’ll try to answer as many as we can!