After the trade deadline dust has settled, the Portland Trail Blazers are left with a young team and a budding star in Anfernee Simons. Simons expects to take over the starting shooting guard role once the team is fully healthy. Although this year may be bleak, the future is promising, and Simons should be right in the middle of that. So let’s look at how the 22-year-old guard will project for the Blazers.
Simons, Better Than Curry, and Booker?
Although Simons started the year off on the bench, he’s rocketed into the starting lineup. The injuries and trade did have a part in this, but Simons proves that he’s the shooting guard of the future. Currently, Simons is 7th in offensive win shares (2.2) for all shooting guards, alongside notable players such as Seth Curry, Anthony Edwards, and former teammate CJ McCollum. Digging more into the advanced stats, he’s 11th amongst all shooting guards this year in Player Efficiency and 11th in points per game per 36 minutes. The more traditional stats show that Simons has put together a 16/4/2 season, but in the past five games, Simons has averaged 26/5/3.
As Blazers fans know, Simons is great at playing on and off the ball, making him a perfect compliment to Dame when he comes back. Simons is shooting 63% from the field and 45% from three-point land on catch and shoot opportunities in spot-up situations this year. Steph Curry is shooting 38.5% from three on catch and shoot opportunities for reference.
As the primary ball-handler, in situations, while having possession of the ball for 6+ seconds (think iso opportunities), Simons is shooting 38.3% on three-pointers and 53.2% from the field. Compare that to fellow superstar shooting guard Devin Booker, who sits at 29.1% from three and 45.5% from the field.
Simons has the tools to become a star shooting guard in this league. My favorite part of writing these articles is speculating the potential of players. The NBA and Basketball-Reference do a fantastic job at providing several resources for statistics, all for free, something of which I hope never changes. Because of the access to this information, we can make projections as accurate as possible, barring the human elements of injuries or early retirements. Here’s what I anticipate Simons’ floor (at worst) and ceiling (at best) would be for his career.
Jason Terry, SG/PG
Career Stats: 18 years, 13.4ppg, 2.3reb, 3.8ast – 44.4FG% / 38.0FG3% / 84.5 FT%
Best Five Years: 2001-2005 (ATL): 17.1ppg, 3.3reb, 5.8apg – 43.8FG% / 38.0FG3% / 84.8 FT%
I believe that Simons ends up as a top-tier sixth man in the worst-case scenario. This player is expected to be the first player off the bench and lead that second unit while the starters rest. This leads me to remember The Jet, Jason Terry. Simons and Terry are eerily similar in stature, with Simons being slightly taller than Terry, both with the slim build, known for their quickness on the court. I mentioned the statistics earlier about the spot-up shooting, which Terry was known for throughout his career. Terry was able to capture the Sixth Man of the Year award in the 2008-2009 season, averaging 19.6ppg / 2.4reb / 3.4apg, and won a championship with the improbable Mavericks in 2011, where he was the second-leading scorer of that team behind soon to be Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Simons already possesses all of the abilities as it was his job before the trade deadline being that sixth man that provided a spark of the bench, which is why I believe this would be his floor.
Joe Johnson, SG/SF
Career Stats: 21 years, 16ppg, 4.0reb, 3.9ast – 44.1 FG% / 37.1 FG3% / 80.2 FT%
Best Five Years: 2006-2010 (ATL): 21.7ppg, 4.4reb, 5.5apg – 44.9 FG% / 36.9 FG3% / 80.5 FT%
Joe Johnson and Anfernee Simons have a similar start to their career. Both players didn’t crack the starting rotation until their age 22 season and were known for their spot-up shooting. It wasn’t until Joe Johnson got to Atlanta in 2006 via sign and trade for Boris Diaw that the training wheels were taken off. From there, Johnson ripped off the best five years of his career. His playstyle morphed to the isolation style where players cleared out and let Johnson complete his magic, showing flashy dribble moves and his lethal pull-up jumper. This combo was significant enough to propel Johnson to seven all-stars and an all-NBA nod in the 2009-2010 season. This year, Simons has been able to work on this ability due to the trades and injuries that the Blazers have faced. I would love to see a new version of Iso Joe, which could help alleviate the pressure to create away from Damian Lillard, allowing Dame to become a spot-up shooter.
We should be looking forward to the progression of Anfernee Simons. Under the tutelage of Damian Lillard and the increased playing time, Simons’ potential has him on the track to being a top-five shooting guard in the league. His ability to score via the spot-up shot or creating off the dribble is already causing heads to turn. The Blazers would not have made the McCollum or Powell trades if they didn’t trust Simons’ future. So I’m buying up all of the Anfernee Simons stock that I can.