Jason Quick

Gary Trent Jr. continues to shoot, and impress, as Blazers stay undefeated

Gary Trent Jr. continues to shoot, and impress, as Blazers stay undefeated

LAS VEGAS –  There have been a lot of good storylines for the Trail Blazers after an undefeated run through the round-robin portion of the Las Vegas Summer League, but perhaps no story is gaining more momentum than the emergence of rookie Gary Trent Jr.

Trent on Tuesday had a team-high 20 points while making four three-pointers to lead the Blazers to a 95-89 win over San Antonio, helping Portland join Phoenix and Denver as the only 3-0 teams in Las Vegas. 

While the Blazers’ undefeated run has been directed by exceptional play from veteran point guard Wade Baldwin and steady scoring from veteran Jake Layman, Trent has been both consistently notable.

In the first game he made 9-of-9 free throws, in the second game he impressed the coaching staff with his defense, and Tuesday he was the leading force in helping the Blazers build leads as large as 22 points. 

Throughout, one thing has been noticeable: Trent is not afraid to shoot. 

Trent leads the Blazers with 36 shot attempts, and everyone – from Trent, to Baldwin, to coach Jim Moran – say more should, and will, come.

“Shooters shoot,’’ Trent said. “It’s what I do.’’

Moran said the coaching staff has had zero complaints about his shot selection.

“Right now in Summer League, he’s a big threat for us, he can make shots, we need him to make shots,’’ Moran said. “And the majority of his shots have been good. He’s not out here jacking bad threes or forcing stuff. Most of stuff he’s shooting is coming out the flow of our system, so I’m happy with it.’’

Trent has modest statistics through three games – 14.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and shooting percentages of 36.1 overall and 38.4 from three – but the players and coaches say it’s how he plays that stands out more than his stats.

Baldwin said Trent’s ability to get shots is diverse. He can use his size to get defenders off him and create separation, and he knows how to use screens and then be in a position to shoot.

“That’s a special talent,’’ Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he actually noticed Trent earlier this year when he watched Duke play Michigan State.

“He has great preparation before the shot,’’ Baldwin said. “He didn’t make a lot of shots in that game, but I could see the preparation and how he got the shots.’’

The big question now is how this translates to the big club, when the Blazers meet for training camp in September. Trent is a wing, but will likely play small forward at first, which is a position that currently has veterans Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner and Jake Layman on the depth chart.

Still, as Moran noted, shooting is shooting.

“I mean, if a guy can make shots, that’s something that definitely translates,’’ Moran said. “I think defensively you always worry about the rookies because physically they might not be there yet and they might not know the NBA game and defensive schemes. That’s something we are going to try and have to bring him up to speed. And I don’t decide playing time and rotations, but he has had a great Summer League. I’m happy with him.’’

Notes: Zach Collins did not play Tuesday because of a sprained right ankle suffered in Sunday’s game against Atlanta. Collins said he sprained the ankle twice in the game, but said he expects to play Thursday in the Blazers’ next game … Baldwin had another stellar game Tuesday and continues to apply a stranglehold on the bid for the 15throster spot, if the team decides to use it. He followed up his 10-assist game on Sunday with nine more against the Spurs to go along with 16 points and five steals. “He’s been phenomenal,’’ Moran said. “He’s getting guys in their spots, calling plays, playing defense … he’s just really growing into that point guard role. He’s been outstanding for us.’’

More struggles Tuesday from Georgios Papagiannis (1 point, 2 rebounds in 7 minutes) and Caleb Swanigan (five turnovers, 2-of-10 shooting). Papagiannis is competing with Baldwin for the final roster spot … Rookie Anfernee Simons started his first game and finished with 8 points on 4-of-13 shooting. 

 

Confident Jake Layman turning this Summer League into a good story

Confident Jake Layman turning this Summer League into a good story

LAS VEGAS – At this time last season, Jake Layman was a story for the wrong reasons.

Today, the third-year Trail Blazers forward is making headlines as a standout in Portland’s 2-0 Summer League start.

Layman on Sunday had 23 points, thanks to 4-of-5 shooting from three point range, to help the Blazers beat Atlanta 85-68 at the Las Vegas Summer League.

It was Layman’s second solid outing (he had 14 points in Saturday’s win over Utah) and endorses the team’s decision to guarantee his contract on June 30. 

“You want to walk off the court remembering his performance and I think he’s had two great games so far,’’ said Blazers assistant Jim Moran, who is heading the Summer League team. “Veteran guys in Summer League,  that’s what you expect of them.’’

Last season, Layman started 2-for-22 in Vegas, which included a string of missing his first seven three pointers. But this season, he vowed to be more aggressive, which he says means taking the action to the opponent as well as looking for his shot. 

“It’s showing the work I put in the offseason to try and be a more consistent shooter,’’ Layman said.

Moran said Layman has been putting in two workouts a day this summer at the Blazers’ practice facility, and he said that work is translating to a confidence in the first two games.

“He’s done a great job of playing composed and picking his spots and finding it,’’ Moran said. “He’s one of those guys if he gets the opportunity and he’s playing with confidence he can really make it.’’

Layman was one of several bright spots Sunday. 

Rookie Anfernee Simons had 12 points, four rebounds and three steals, and made back-to-back three-pointers in the first half.

“I keep looking at him with 20 more pounds on him,’’ Moran said. “That’s going to be exciting to see what that looks like.’’

Also, Gary Trent Jr. continues to make an impression on his teammates and coaching staff. He had eight points, four rebounds and a block, and struggled through 3-of-12 shooting, but he continued to show a physicality and confidence.

“Gary … he’s already there physically,’’ said Blazers’ star Damian Lillard, who watched courtside. ”He knows how to get to spots and get shots. I think it’s just a matter of him learning and being around older players and people he’s going to play with … but I like what I’ve seen from both (rookies).’’

Wade Baldwin, who led the team in scoring with 20 points in the first game, ran the team nicely on Sunday, finishing with 10 assists and one turnover. 

The only hiccup Sunday for the Blazers was a leg injury to Zach Collins, which forced him to leave the game with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter. The Blazers listed the injury as a sprained ankle, but Collins said he also felt something in his calf.

Collins led the defense with five blocks in 21 minutes. 

The Blazers play next on Tuesday against San Antonio at 1 p.m.

Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard: 'I love where I am'

Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard: 'I love where I am'

LAS VEGAS – Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard on Sunday quashed any notion that he is disgruntled in Portland, saying “I love where I am” in a brief meeting with reporters at the Las Vegas Summer League.

“I’m straight up. I’m straight up with coach, I’m straight up with Neil, straight up with you all,’’ Lillard told a media gathering. “I’m not unhappy. I love where I live. I love the organization. I love our coaching staff. I love where I am.’’

Lillard sent some cryptic tweets after the Blazers parted ways with good friend and valued teammate Ed Davis, which led to some national speculation that Lillard wanted out of Portland. Shortly after, rumors surfaced that Lillard was being pursued by the Lakers. 

Lillard chuckled at how things spiraled into a story. He said his tweet with a peace sign and watch – which some interpreted as two-timed – was merely a way for him to say he was going to sleep. 

As for how free agency and the draft has turned out? Lillard says he has been encouraged by rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr., and come to grips with the Blazers’ financial and geographical disadvantages.

“Like I said last year, it’s the urgency of wanting to make those steps in the right direction so we can compete,’’ Lillard said. “We got people out here going all out to try and make it happen, and I want us to do the same thing. And I feel like we are trying to do that.’’

The Blazers, who finished third in the West last season, but also three games from missing the playoffs, lost Davis, Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton. They have gained 19-year-old rookies in Simons and Trent and guards Seth Curry, who didn’t play last year because of injury, and Nik Stauskas, who played in 41 games last season.

“Obviously, I loved Ed,’’ Lillard said. “He was one of my best friends in the league; one of favorite teammates I’ve played with. We lose him – that’s a loss for our team. Bazz played big minutes for us, Pat played big minutes for us – so we lose three rotation players that gave us a lot and contributed to our season last year. But I guess now we look forward to who can come in and replace those minutes and give us that type of quality.’’

The Blazers will have to do that against what is a fortified Western Conference, which now features LeBron James in Los Angeles, the champion Warriors, and last year’s top seed Houston, as well as three teams Lillard said got better – Denver, Utah and Minnesota.

“As far as where we fit in there – you all know how I operate – I’m going to get us in (the playoffs) and that’s how it’s going to go,’’ Lillard said.

Trying to make the Blazers, Wade Baldwin shows 'full throttle' performance in Vegas opener

Trying to make the Blazers, Wade Baldwin shows 'full throttle' performance in Vegas opener

LAS VEGAS – Earlier this week, Wade Baldwin promised he would play “full throttle” in this Las Vegas Summer League in order to prove he deserves the final roster spot on the Trail Blazers.

In Saturday’s opener, he showed just what full throttle looks like: 20 points, five assists and 9-for-13 shooting while spearheading the offensive and defensive attack that produced a 93-78 win over the Utah Jazz.

“That’s what I’m trying to bring for this team, for the Blazers,’’ Baldwin said. “You can count on me for that.’’

Baldwin and 7-foot-1 center Georgios Papagiannis are both playing with contracts that won’t become guaranteed unless they are not waived on or before July 18. 

After the Blazers signed free agent Jusuf Nurkic on Friday, Porltand has 14 guaranteed roster spots, one below the league limit. 

Baldwin, who was signed to a two-way contract by the Blazers last October, then brought on full-time in March, made a late-season impact with stellar defense against the likes of James Harden, Chris Paul and Manu Ginobili. 

His defensive spark was impressive enough that he saw postseason play, and while the Blazers’ financial standing will probably play a big role in his future, so too will his Summer league play.

And on Saturday, his play looked like an NBA rotation player.

“No matter what the competition is – MVP of the league, rookie, undrafted guy … it doesn’t matter,’’ Baldwin said. “I’m coming full throttle for everybody.’’

That type of intensity led to one of the few blemishes of his opener: an ejection with 1:41 left in the game for a “hostile act” against Utah first-round pick Grayson Allen. Baldwin got tangled with Allen and threw a forearm across the rookie’s face. 

“Two hot competitors, wanting to play at a high level,’’ Baldwin explained. “He is notoriously known for trying to trip guys, trying to throw elbows, and there were little things throughout the game – little pushes and stuff  … got tangled up and we reacted.’’

Aside from the late-game flare up Baldwin was in control and calculated. He initiated the offense and tried to get teammates involved early before becoming aggressive with drives late in the game. He said that approach was learned from watching Blazers’ all-star Damian Lillard.

“It’s important to get guys going … it gets a rhythm going,’’ Baldwin said. “I’m watching Damian Lillard play all season: he’s relaxing, he’s relaxing, he’s being patient, getting CJ involved, he’s getting Nurk involved … I have the best point guard in the league to model after, and I think I did a good job of that today.’’

Summer League coach Jim Moran said Baldwin’s performance was “great” but added that it went beyond the statistics.

“We all know he can play the point. But having him be able to kind of dictate, control, get guys where they need to be, slow down and talk to guys … more of a leadership role is what we’ve been looking for,’’ Moran said. “And I thought he did a great job today, not just verbally, but with how hard he played, picking up defensively and just setting the tone for us.’’

In the process, Baldwin just might have set the tone for his contract becoming guaranteed.

“I want to show (the Blazers) my entire game – assists, rebounding, pushing (the ball), defense … everything to guarantee my spot on the team,’’ Baldwin said. “There’s nothing more than I want than to be a part of an NBA team. I want to collect years in this league. That’s the hardest thing to do. So, that’s what I’m aiming for.’’

From Big Skinny to Big Z: The 20-pound transformation of Zach Collins

From Big Skinny to Big Z: The 20-pound transformation of Zach Collins

When Zach Collins first stepped foot into the Trail Blazers’ practice facility as a rookie last summer, the 7-footer said he weighed 220 pounds. 

To his teammates, he became “The Big Skinny” – a respectful, but playful jibe on his lanky build.

One year later, the talk about Collins around the team has changed. 

“I call him Big Z,’’ Wade Baldwin said. “Everybody calls him Big Skinny, but I like to boost his confidence and call him Big Z.’’

It’s not just a ploy to boost confidence, though. There’s more than a little bit of truth to a Big Z moniker.

Collins today says he is consistently registering 240 pounds on the scale, meaning he has put on 20 pounds since his rookie season. He says he arrived in Portland at 220, started last season at 228, then got as high as 234. 

“I've put on 5-to-7 pounds since the end of the season. It’s crazy, yeah,’’ Collins said. “It’s crazy.’’

Of all the to-do items for the Blazers’ future, Collins adding size and strength was chief among them. Throughout a solid rookie season, when he averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16 minutes, talk of Collins was usually couched by that faraway date when he would add size.

But after an accelerated summer regimen, the future appears to be now, as evidenced by what has become a pronounced chest and thicker arms.

“Everything is just a little bit more solid,’’ Collins said. “I just know I feel stronger in everything I do.’’

He knew he would be able to put on weight, in part because he says he has always loved the weight room because it eliminates outside elements. 

On the court, he has to think about guarding his man, helping teammates on defense, making the right passes and having the correct shooting form. But in the weight room, it’s just him and the weights.

“I like the simplicity of that; it’s all about how hard you want to work,’’ Collins said. 

His new body will be on display at the Las Vegas Summer League, where the Blazers begin play Saturday against Utah. Collins, who broke his nose colliding with teammate Caleb Swanigan in Tuesday’s practice, will be wearing a plastic mask during the games. 

His improved frame couldn’t have come at a better time for the Blazers, a point that was driven home by a chance encounter with Neil Olshey, the team’s top executive.

**

The day after the Blazers were swept by New Orleans, Collins said Olshey and the coaching staff noted that they envisioned him becoming more of an interior post man next season.

Collins said he went home to Las Vegas and took about three weeks off. When he returned to the practice facility for his return to training, he ran into Olshey outside the team’s locker room.

“Neil stopped me outside the locker room and told me he wanted to get me playing with my back to the basket more,’’ Collins said. “That he wanted me to get my game more inside-out.’’

For Collins, it was music to his ears. 

“That’s how I’ve been playing all my life,’’ he said. “Last year was a little bit of a different role.’’

Last year, he played mostly alongside Ed Davis, and Collins would work on the perimeter while Davis set picks and dove toward the basket. Nearly half of his shots last season were from 16 feet and beyond.

“I think getting a rhythm closer to the basket and being able to see the ball go in a little bit more, rather than coming into the game and having to fire up perimeter shots will be good for me,’’ Collins said. “I’m comfortable doing that and looking forward to that being more a part of my game this year.’’

 

**

To be effective inside in today’s NBA game, you have to be strong and explosive. 

For as much toughness Collins showed last season – a factor that earned him unwavering respect from the veterans – he did have a tendency to lose the ball on contact, or get pushed out of position. 

And that’s where the Blazers’ five-day-a-week weight lifting program has come into play. It’s not just dumbbells and bench presses, but more core strengthening, explosion drills and balance work.  

“It’s all about lifting the right way,’’ Collins said. “Especially nowadays. Everybody is so athletic, everybody is so strong and explosive. Especially for big guys. There’s not a lot  of back-to-the-basket bigs, but they are still out there. There are still bigs who can overpower you.’’

Collins, though, says his weight lifting is not just to hold his ground. He found last season that absorbing contact against stronger opponents took a toll on his body.

“That’s one reason why the weight room is important – to stay healthy,’’ Collins said. “If you are light, you can bang as much as you want, but you are going to break down, just because you aren’t strong enough.’’

Today, teammates chuckle when they think of the gangly rookie from last year. They joke that Collins is now all about tank tops and short sleeves that show off his muscles. 

Collins, though, says his body isn’t the only thing improved. For the first time in two years, he will be returning to the same team. From Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas to Gonzaga to Portland, he has felt like he’s been caught in a whirlwind of change. 

Now, as his body changes, his mind can rest easier.

“I tell people all the time that I’m really excited for next year because the last two years I’ve had to learn everything on the go,’’ Collins said. “From being a freshman at GU to being a rookie here. Now I get to come back and I kind of know what to expect. I can already feel it in Summer League. Like, I already know what spots to go to, where I want the ball.  So, I’m excited for that.’’

Blazers' Summer League: Where jobs, roles and improved bodies are on display

Blazers' Summer League: Where jobs, roles and improved bodies are on display

 

Zach Collins, his teammates say, has been living in the weight room.

 

Jake Layman has been working on his ball handling and passing.

 

Meanwhile, as rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. get used to playing under contract, Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis will be playing for a contract.

 

These are some of the top stories for the Trail Blazers Summer League team, which starts play in Las Vegas on Saturday against Utah.

 

Collins, the second-year big man who forged an important role last season, figures to be the centerpiece of the Vegas team, with special attention paid to his inside game and his strength.

 

Blazers’ president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said earlier this offseason that the Blazers wanted to see Collins play more inside than he did last season, when he was mostly a perimeter power forward. 

 

One aspect of Collins moving inside more has been the development of his body. Layman said Collins now “lives” in the weight room and Baldwin said he can just look at Collins and see he has become stronger. 

 

“I just look a him,’’ Baldwin said. “He’s wearing a cut off shirt … is a little tone.’’

 

Collins was unavailable after the Blazers’ first Summer League practice on Tuesday because he got hit in the face near the end of a scrimmage.

 

Layman, who is back for his third season after the team did not waive him before June 30, said he has been emphasizing his ball-handling and passing during his offseason workouts. 

 

A small forward, Layman says he wants to be “more aggressive” this season, which includes driving to the basket and bringing the ball up court after grabbing a rebound.

 

While Layman just survived his contract deadline, both Baldwin and the 7-foot-1 Papagiannis will be playing for guaranteed contracts. Both will become guaranteed for the 2018-2019 season if they are not waived on or before July 18.

 

“I have to be full throttle,’’ said Baldwin, who will run the team at point guard. “I’m still on watch; it ain’t guaranteed for me. Nobody in this league is safe. A phone call can change everything.’’

 

Simons, the 24thoverall pick and Trent, the 37thpick, do have guaranteed contracts, even though Trent says he won’t sign his until later in the week. 

 

Simons on Tuesday said he scrimmaged while playing point guard and shooting guard, with probably more emphasis on point guard. 

 

Trent meanwhile said he played point guard, shooting guard and small forward in the scrimmages.

 

Layman was asked who stood out in the first practice and he immediately singled out Trent.

 

“Gary looked great,’’ Layman said. “He shot it well and was aggressive.’’

 

Baldwin said Simons also had good “pace” to his game, and Simons noted that he shot the ball well in his first practice.

 

For Trent, it sounded like he was ready to bypass practices and get right to Saturday’s game. He says he is motivated to prove that he should have been a first round pick.

 

“I always had a chip on my shoulder, but it’s even bigger now,’’ Trent said. “I want to showcase what I can do – I can be a great teammate, I can survive in this league, I can stay in this league. That’s what I’m trying to do.’’

Trail Blazers to sign guard Seth Curry to two-year contract

Trail Blazers to sign guard Seth Curry to two-year contract

Seth Curry, the younger brother of Golden State star Stephen Curry, has agreed to sign a free agent contract with the Trail Blazers according to his agent, Jeff Austin.

Curry, a 6-foot-2 guard, did not play last season with Dallas because of a left leg injury. In February, he had surgery for a stress fracture in his lower left leg and has been cleared to play for about three weeks, Austin said. 

Austin said the contract is for $2.8 million in the 2018-2019 season. Curry has an option for the 2019-2020 season.

Curry, who will turn 28 in August, had his best season in 2016-2017, when with Dallas he averaged 12.8 points and 2.7 assists while shooting 48.1 percent overall and 42.5 percent from three point range (137-for-322).

Curry played collegiately at Duke and went undrafted. He made his first breakthrough in the 2015-2016 season with Sacramento, when he played 44 games and averaged 6.8 points. In his career, he has made 43.2 percent of his three-pointers over 118 games.

 

Blazers' preseason will feature game against Toronto in Vancouver, B.C.

Blazers' preseason will feature game against Toronto in Vancouver, B.C.

The Trail Blazers in September will play a preseason game in Vancouver, B.C. as part of the sixth NBA Canada Series.

The Blazers will play the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, September 29 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. It's the fourth preseason game to be held in Vancouver as part of the NBA Canada Series, which is in its sixth season. The Raptors will also play the Brooklyn Nets in Montreal on Oct. 10.

Tickets will go on sale on July 14. Fans are encouraged to register for exclusive presale ticket access at nba.com/CanadaSeries.

"Vancouver is cool,'' Blazers guard Damian Lillard said in a release from the NBA. "I've been there a few times and I've always really enjoyed it. We're looking forward to playing in front of fans from another great Pacific Northwest city.''

The NBA Canada Series features a schedule of interactive fan events, appearances by NBA legends, and NBA Cares outreach programs.

New Blazers' guard Anfernee Simons eager to show he wasn't a wasted pick

New Blazers' guard Anfernee Simons eager to show he wasn't a wasted pick

A 19-year-old who bypassed college, Anfernee Simons was regarded as perhaps the surprise first-round pick of the NBA Draft last week.

After the Trail Blazers selected him with the 24th overall pick, he was called a project. A risk. A gamble.

Quiet to the point of being stoic, Simons on Monday listened to those labels stone faced. 

Then he smiled.

“I don’t feel like I’m that big of a project,’’ Simons said. “All I need to do is get stronger, and I feel like I will be ready to go, honestly. I feel like once they see me play, they will know it wasn’t a wasted pick.’’

His confidence is borne not from cockiness, but rather from an assurance that he has put in the work. After all, he has been honing his craft since he was 5, after his father, Charles, identified that Anfernee had a special talent.

So he was pushed, hounded and molded, to the point of tears.

So when his name was called Thursday by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, he had a long, tearful embrace with his mother, Tameka. 

“All the hard work I’ve put in throughout the years, the crying and stuff,’’ Simons said. “I’ve put a lot of crying in. So, just thinking back on that, I got real emotional.’’

His father today says he has some regrets. Maybe he was too hard, too soon. 

Mistakes, Charles says, were made.

“It was like, it was never good enough,’’ Simons recalled. “When I thought I had a good game, he would be tough on me, saying it wasn’t good enough. So I kind of have that mindset now, that even though I’m doing good, it’s never good enough. You can always do more and more.’’

His father will move out to Portland with Simons, who turned 19 on June 8, four days after his first workout with the Blazers.  He says he will be there for whatever Anfernee wants – a workout partner, a father, a friend.

“Whatever capacity he needs me, I’m there for him,’’ Charles said.

Simons’ first test will be the Las Vegas Summer League, where he will play alongside Blazers’ holdovers Wade Baldwin, Jake Layman, Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins. Gary Trent Jr., a second round pick by the Blazers, will also be on the roster. 

Simons, who at the NBA Combine measured a hair taller than 6-foot-3 and at 183.2 pounds, says he is anxious to get on the court because he hasn’t played 5-on-5 in some time. He bypassed college this season after decommitting from Louisville amid a controversy with coach Rick Pitino, and instead attended IMG Academy in his home state of Florida. It was while he was at IMG that he decided to declare for the NBA.

“There was so much up and down with the draft process,” said Tameka, his mother. “One day it’s great, the next day, you don’t know. He hadn’t been to college, and there’s so many people saying he’s not ready … and we don’t know if he’s going to get to go (to NBA) … so when that moment happened, it was like everything stopped. And it was, wow! We finally got to this point.’’

Now, there’s another point to reach: Proving he is worth the trust Neil Olshey has placed in him. 

For Simons and the people who have been on this journey with him, they say it’s only a matter of time before Portland sees.

“It’s cliché, but it really feels like he was born to do this,’’ Tameka said. “He’s super competitive on the floor. I can’t wait for guys to see, when he is really locked in … he’s going to show you guys that he’s got something behind him.’’

Unable to trade, Blazers bet on future with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent

Unable to trade, Blazers bet on future with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent

Unable to make a trade, Neil Olshey on Thursday decided the Trail Blazers’ best path was to gamble.

So the Blazers’ president of basketball operations took a chance in the first round, drafting guard Anfernee Simons, who earlier this month turned 19. Simons bypassed college last season and trained at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

For Blazers’ fans who were hoping for a trade to land a proven veteran, or at least prospect who has a proven track record, the selection of Simons could be viewed as risky.

And Olshey wouldn’t dispute that.

“But it’s not our job to play it safe,’’ Olshey said. “Our job is to go get the guy who has the talent, that if he pans out, you’re not going to get as a free agent, and that nobody is going to trade him to you. That’s what we are trying to find.’’

Olshey thinks he might have that in Simons, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard who is slight of build but heavy in potential.

“He’s really gifted,’’ Olshey said. “We felt like he was the most talented guy (left) on the board. He has a really bright future … When the physical growth catches up to his natural, God-given ability, he’s going to be a really good player.’’

Later, in the second round, the Blazers traded with Sacramento to acquire Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th overall pick. Trent, another 19-year-old who just finished his freshman season at Duke, is a wing who is expected to have more of a chance to play next season.

“We are all looking for shooting and this is a guy we think can step in right away and fill a void,’’ Olshey said. “How much or how little is up to (coach) Terry (Stotts). But I don’t think we are going to need to be as patient with Gary.’’

Since the Blazers were swept in the playoffs, Olshey has been transparent about seeking veterans to add to one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. And on Thursday, he directly said the Blazers are looking for wings. 

Ideally, Olshey said he would have liked to execute a trade using the team’s $12.9 traded-player-exception from last July’s move of Allen Crabbe, but the rest of the league was more focused on the draft, and not player movement.  

“We were trying to look for teams where trading 24 could get us an impact rotation guy into the trade exception,’’ Olshey said. “But tonight wasn’t about existing players (for other teams); it was about the draft. 

“We were aggressive leading up to the draft – but we know it was to be a specific fit, a specific guy in terms of skill set. And a guy we believe could make an impact,’’ Olshey said. “Tonight wasn’t the night to do that.’’

So, the Blazers looked ahead, hoping that a player most had targeted in the second round because of his youth and inexperience on the big stage, will one day develop into a star.

“At that point in the draft, we are looking for the guy with the highest ceiling that we could possibly find,’’ Olshey said. “He’s really gifted.’’

Olshey said Simons will likely be an off-the-ball guard, but could someday develop into a point. The Blazers have established guards in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but have question marks behind them, as Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton are free agents and Wade Baldwin is working on a partially guaranteed contract. 

“But this was not a need pick, this was a pick as far as who had the highest ceiling,’’ Olshey said. “There are things he can do that can’t be replicated by a lot of guys in this draft. He just needs to get physically strong enough to do it against NBA competition and do it more consistently.’’

Trent, meanwhile, is more ready and Olshey said he hopes for him to contribute at some level next season. Trent was a McDonald’s All-American and has played for various Team USA teams.

“He’s been on track for this his whole life,’’ Olshey said.

Trent is 6-foot-6 and Olshey said he envisions him as a something between a shooting guard and small forward – needing to improve his quickness to guard elite shooting guards and “having to play up” to guard a small forward.

Many of the mock drafts had Trent being a mid-to-late first round pick. That he lasted to the 37th pick will stick with him.

“Chip on my shoulder? It’s more than that,’’ Trent said. “Going in the second round … I believe I was a first rounder. I’m going to have to come in and work and prove I belong, prove I can stay in this league and prove that I’m better than a second round pick. I’m up for that challenge.’’

Trent’s father played for the Blazers from 1995-1998, a coincidence not lost on the younger Trent.

“It’s crazy. That can’t be nothing but God’s work,’’ Trent said. “To put me in the same place that my dad played – it’s a surreal feeling. It’s unexplainable. Crazy to think about.’’