Anfernee Simons’ Return Provides A Massive Boost For Struggling Trail Blazers Offense

By Torey Jones

Contributor, 750 The Game

Things are about to get interesting for the Portland Trail Blazers.

They’ve started to play a better brand of basketball, winning three out of five games with their two losses being very close, and now they expect Anfernee Simons back as soon as Wednesday when the face off with the Golden State Warriors. Blazers beat reporter Casey Holdahl said the Blazers guard went through most of Monday’s practice, and Simons would provide a massive boost for an offense that ranks dead last in adjusted offensive rating.

Simons’ return will give a glimpse as to how good this team could have been had they stayed healthy. While Robert Williams III is out for the year, the Blazers are about to be as healthy as they’ll be for the rest of the season. After moving on from Damian Lillard, this Blazers roster was an intriguing talking point in the pre-season because nobody was sure how good they’d be. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find out since Simons went down on opening night. The thumb injury he suffered has cost him the first six weeks of what could be a breakout season.

The Blazers currently sit at 6-13, three games behind the 10th seeded Houston Rockets who hold the final play-in spot. While getting Simons back is a major boost, the Blazers also should be aided by a home-heavy schedule the rest of December. The Blazers are headed into a stretch where they’ll play nine of twelve games at home, with their three road games being short west coast trips. Given the Blazers improvement and competitiveness as of late, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this team rattle off a string of wins over the next four weeks and push towards a play-in spot.

Portland has struggled with spacing all season long, and desperately need a shooting boost despite their recent improvements. The Blazers are looking to improve their 27th-ranked three-point percentage, and Simons should have a noticeable impact there. By having another shot-creator and floor-spacer on the court, things should be easier for other players when attacking the rim. There has been a ton of defensive traffic awaiting Blazers’ drives to the basket, and kickout passes to three-point shooters often go unrewarded. Layups have been stuffed or heavily contested, resulting in the Blazers having 12.1% of their shots blocked (3rd most in the league) and shooting 59.2% within five feet of the rim (4th worst in the league).

Defensively, the Blazers have been improving, and I don’t think Simons will hurt them here. He’s gotten better at navigating screens and had one of the most impressive defensive games of his career on opening night, often switching onto Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter and doing a good job. It seems like Simons cares about defense and if opening night was any indication, was primed for a jump on that side of the ball. While he’s likely never going to be a great defensive player, solid is good enough for a player that can do the things he can on offense.

Chauncey Billups will have some decisions to make with his starting lineup with the return of Simons. Portland’s turned to a starting unit consisting of Malcolm Brogdon, Shaedon Sharpe, Toumani Camara, Jerami Grant and DeAndre Ayton, and one of those players will have to be moved to the bench. With Grant and Ayton being frontcourt players making loads of money, neither one of their starting roles are in question. Shaedon Sharpe came off the bench on opening night but given his improvement, it’s hard to see Billups reducing his role again. That leaves Malcolm Brogdon and Toumani Camara.

I think the answer should be Brogdon. Camara has been the type of versatile defender the Blazers have needed at a forward spot and has started to look more comfortable and confident on the offensive end. Reducing Camara’s role seems like a mistake given the progress he’s making, and the Blazers are better with him on the floor. But bringing Brogdon off the bench isn’t a simple process either, as Anfernee Simons would start at point guard and the Blazers would be bringing two additional point guards off the bench in Brogdon and Scoot Henderson. Brogdon is big enough to play some shooting guard and can help take some of the playmaking responsibility off of Henderson with the bench unit, but Billups would have to figure out how to balance the minutes of six players (Simons, Sharpe, Brogdon, Henderson, Camara and Thybulle) at three positions (point guard, shooting guard and small forward). I’m curious about what the minutes breakdown looks like for these players once Simons returns.

Regardless, the Trail Blazers are about to get the boost of offense it so desperately needs. Simons has blossomed into a high-caliber guard and will provide a more entertaining product for fans on a night-in, night-out basis. After suffering from numerous injuries to start the year, this Blazer team is about to get healthy, and we’re about to find out how good they really are.

Torey Jones is a Trail Blazers contributor to He is the founder of Blazers Uprise and his work can be found throughout the season on