“Anfernee [Simons] always surprises me,” Portland Trail Blazers Assistant Coach Jim Moran told Jordan Kent and Michael Holton on this week’s edition of Trail Blazers Courtside.
The second-year player from IMG Academy is a former first-round (No. 24 overall) draft pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2018 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard was the third player drafted in the NBA from high school since 2015.
This is Moran’s fifth season with the Portland Trail Blazers with a specialization in player development. Coach Moran spends lots of time working with the young guys, making sure they are staying mentally and physically prepared to play at their best when their name is called.
And according to Moran, he has been impressed with the strides Ant has take from year one to year two.
Being around him everyday and just seeing how much stronger he’s getting. When he first got here, I called him ‘Pre-K.’ I stopped very quickly because he started calling me ‘Retirement Home.’I kind of let that one go. He’s just getting a lot stronger; He’s gotten a lot smarter; He’s getting a better feel of the offense, not just at the point guard but at the two-guard position. -- Jim Moran
Simons saw action in 65 games this 2019-20 season before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the NBA season indefinitely. During that time, he averaged 8.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, and shot 40.2% from the field and 33.8% from three-point range.
“Pre-K” quickly graduated and skipped a few grades. And he had the right help to do so.
There's no doubt the Blazers' front office, as well as Rip City fans, have endless confidence that Simons is "the future." But there is also one other important piece to the puzzle when grading Simons.
One thing I love being around Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum], especially with Anfernee and Gary [Trent Jr.], is how much advice and pointers and the few games that Dame didn’t play, and as Ant is coming off the court, he’s pulling him over. It’s kinda cool being the guy sitting next to him [Dame] and be like ‘Wow that’s pretty impressive,’ not just the information he’s giving him but the leadership and how much he cares about this guy because he know’s he [Simons] can help us. — Jim Moran
The opportunity to be a 20-year-old kid in the league and absorb so much knowledge and wisdom from one of the best guard’s in the NBA is certainly something special.
Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Fry and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon along with special guest former Portland Trail Blazer Steve Blake.