As Neil Olshey was doing his work on the Portland roster just a few days ago, filing in the necessary needs by adding players through trades and free agency, the social media questions began to build:
“What about a backup point guard?” they asked. “Why not bring in somebody else to back up Damian Lillard?”
It didn’t make a lot of sense, of course, because the reality of the Trail Blazers’ playing rotation has been that CJ McCollum has always been the real backup point guard. And with Gary Trent Jr. apparently going to earn more playing time this season at the 2-guard, it will become even more imperative for McCollum to get those point guard minutes.
And Olshey was very quick to answer any questions about adding a point guard.
“We have one -- Anfernee Simons,” he said.
And Lillard, who has always been Simons’ biggest booster, weighed in on the subject earlier this week.
“I saw somewhere that Neil said, ‘We do have a backup point guard, Anfernee Simons.’ I agree with that,” Lillard said. “Because in the summer I worked out with Ant a few times, when we were in the same place, we’d work out together, same trainer.
“Ant is super talented. It’s just he came into the league young and it takes time. It takes experience and it just takes time to play against the best in the world. Grown men. He didn’t play in college.
“You just got to give him a chance and I think he played more minutes last year than he did his rookie year. He was out there at big moments. He had a big shot against Philly last year, so he proved that he can be out there and help the team.”
Simons has worked hard in the offseason and says he is ready to contribute at both guard spots when called upon. He heard the chatter about the team needing another lead guard, but it didn’t worry him.
“You know, it really didn't bother me that much because I knew the work I was putting in during the summer to improve in that area of my game,” he said. “I think that's what you focus on this summer and I think that's what I got better at, so you know when I do get that opportunity to show what I can do, especially in training camp and obviously when I do get minutes, whenever I get minutes, I can show that as well.”
Simons has the skills to play both guard spots and says he has no preference about which role he fills.
“I think I can play both,” he said. “You know, growing up my natural position was 2, because I could score the ball so well. So I think, you know, eventually I can grow into being a point guard, but my natural position right now is 2-guard -- being able to score.
“But, you know, definitely. I've been working on that in the summers, trying to be a point guard and that’s something I'm trying to grow into being.”
Coach Terry Stotts will use Simons alongside McCollum, if the situation merits.
“CJ has been very good as a backup point guard,” Stotts said. “I think he’ll continue in that role. I think Anfernee will obviously have opportunities to play some minutes if they’re needed as a backup.
“But you can make an argument that if Anfernee is out there with Dame or he’s out there with CJ, then CJ would be the point guard and Anfernee the two-guard. Anfernee is going to obviously be a handler but I think CJ and Dame have shown obviously a high proficiency of being a point guard.
“And Anfernee Simons is there if we need him.”