With the 24th pick in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft, the Portland Trail Blazers appeared to play the long game with the selection of IMG Academy guard Anfernee Simons.
Simons recently turned 19-years-old, and never played a single minute of NCAA basketball, after he withdrew his commitment to Louisville in September of 2017.
The questions surrounding Simons’ future are not centered on his ability. Simons has shown that he can be a gifted scorer with impressive athleticism. He has a quick release on his jumper, and he can score inside as well.
The concern with Simons stems from the level of competition he has faced. Having never played college basketball, a stint in the G-League may serve Simons well to begin his professional career. That would make his outlook for the beginning of the 2018-19 season interesting, though, as Portland is one of only a few teams without their own G-League affiliate.
It’s worth noting that, as of this post, there has been no determination on where Simons will begin his career. But Portland has a slew of guards with more experience than Simons, who may theoretically be blocked on the Blazers depth chart, at least for now. Behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers have Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, Gary Trent Jr., and Wade Baldwin IV, who recently had his contract guaranteed by Portland.
Due to Simons’ age and relative level of experience, he likely needs consistent minutes on the floor. The best place for him to do that, initially, is the G-League.
In time, if Simons fulfills his potential, the Blazers could have a prolific scorer, with the ability to score at all three levels of the floor. In the Summer League, Simons also displayed his athleticism and court vision extensively.
In the video below, Simons showed his quickness and athleticism on the Blazers’ Summer League squad, as he hammered down a few noteworthy dunks. He also showed his range from beyond the arc, with a simple, quick release.
Simons’ willingness to move without the ball on offense gave him a few easy looks in the Summer League, as in the clip he cuts through the lane and is the beneficiary with an explosive dunk. In transition, Simons showed his court vision, keeping his eyes down the floor to make the right passes.
Simons and Portland are in an interesting spot. The combination of his draft slot and the star power already in the Blazers’ backcourt means Portland can be patient with Simons for now. This will give him a chance to earn more experience and aid in his overall development.
So what can be expected from Simons this season? That largely depends on where he is. If Simons is in the G-League, he will have the chance to continue to hone and refine his game, while playing against higher competition than he has in the past.
If Simons does see time with the Blazers, he may not play much initially. But there is an argument to be made that Simons would gain valuable experience by watching how both Lillard and McCollum, two stars in the NBA, work.
In seven Summer League games, Simons played 20 minutes per game, and averaged a respectable 11 points per game, while shooting 43 percent from the field. He also averaged 3.2 rebounds and one steal per game.
It is a bit difficult to see where Simons currently fits on the Blazers roster. But looking to the future, when Simons has regular minutes, the Blazers could have a star guard with a high ceiling, who can score in a multitude of ways, and create for others as well.
Anfernee Simons could be called the wildcard of the first round of the 2018 NBA draft. He has ample athleticism and a natural scoring ability to make this an intriguing selection for Portland — and he was a five-star NCAA recruit for a reason. But his timeline, when the Portland Trail Blazers will ultimately see him producing in the NBA, remains to be seen.