It feels like the Anfernee Simons hype train has left the station. The 6’4″ second-year guard has received a lot of hype this offseason, from the general manager to his trainer.
Earlier this offseason rumors started circulating about his development and then general manager Neil Olshey heaped some large praise on Simons. “As good as any player I’ve drafted.” Those are some big expectations that Olshey is putting on the IMG Academy product because he also drafted Damian Lillard.
Lillard has been four-time All-NBA and has been an All-Star four times. Despite that, Olshey thinks Simons has better physical gifts.
The Hype is Real for Anfernee Simons
Anfernee Simons Career Background
Coming into the 2018 NBA Draft, Simons was a bit of an unknown. He was viewed as physically gifted. But with his physical gifts came a lack of experience. Simons was set to go to the University of Louisville, but decided to pass up college and instead play that season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
With him not going to college, there were concerns. Those concerns were valid. How would he fare going from basically high school to the NBA-level? How would he adjust to NBA life? Those were both valid concerns.
Well, it appears any concerns people had should be put to rest. Simons scored 37 points in the final game of the regular season against the Sacramento Kings. That performance got the Portland Trail Blazers the three seed and created a fervor around him that he could end up being a steal in the draft. But that was one game at the end of the season, who cares? Well, it feels like that was a sign of things to come.
Anfernee Simons’ Offseason Hype
Granted this is coming from his trainer, but his trainer had quite the statement about Simons. He said he is the “next Klay Thompson with a mixture of Damian Lillard”. Thompson is perhaps the best two-way player in the league, and Lillard is a four-time All-NBA point guard.
Well, that’s quite the statement to make. However, Simons was able to be a Summer League standout this month. It is Summer League, so that can be dismissed, but the Summer League was his next opportunity to play in-game action and he took advantage.
Now it will be on Simons to hit the gym every day. He has two pretty great veteran examples to follow. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum each came in without much hype and have worked themselves into top-flight NBA players, so the advice should be to follow their lead.
How He Fits With the Portland Trail Blazers This Season
All of this offseason hype can’t be for nothing. Portland lost Seth Curry in the backcourt. Yes, they added Kent Bazemore, but he’s more of a swingman. So after playing in only 20 games last season, Simons is going to have a much bigger role, whether he’s fully ready or not.
Portland has had a history of relying on development from within. Especially since Neil Olshey has been calling the shots. This appears to be the latest example. Olshey said it himself that he thinks Simons is the most gifted player he’s drafted. It’s unlikely that someone who works a job with the amount of pressure an NBA general manager has on them would just throw a statement like that around.
Expect Simons to be in the first group off the bench, and about 20-24 minutes per game seems likely. He should also play a good amount with either Lillard and McCollum, and he will also likely get a chance to run the backup unit a good amount.
Terry Stotts doesn’t love to play young players, but he will have no choice in this situation. Simons is making too many waves to not play a big role this season, and if they want to make a return trip to the conference finals they’ll need this hype train to have something behind it because the West is as stacked as ever.
What to Expect
The hype is exciting. Make no doubt about it. Hearing about potential breakout players is fun, especially when it’s someone from your team. But what should ultimately be expected?
A good prediction is that Simons will average at least 10.0 points per game this season. That will be very helpful in replacing some of the production lost in the backcourt this season with the departure of Curry. And it will be a nice improvement from someone who barely played this past season.
With that being said though, expecting him to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate might be a bit presumptuous, but it’s still fun to think about.
Outside of the coaching staff, nobody has seen anything from him except game action that, and he has looked impressive. Now he will just have a lot more opportunity to perform on a bigger stage against better players in games that truly matter.
Blazers fans should expect a good second season from Simons after what was essentially a “redshirt” season last season.
The Anfernee Simons hype train has officially left the station and it’s not coming back. And ultimately as fans, being excited and potentially overreacting to everything is what’s natural. This Simons hype is no different, and it’s nothing, if not fun.
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