Portland kicked off their 2022 NBA free agency period prioritizing their 23-year-old guard, Anfernee Simons. The two parties came to terms on a four-year rookie extension that amasses to $100 million.
Ant was seemingly the most crucial free agent for the Blazers to re-sign following a season in which the Blazers parted ways with both Norman Powell and C.J. McCollum. Simons was the 24th overall pick in the 2018 draft after forgoing a collegiate career at the University of Louisville and attending the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Prior to the start of the season, Simons had been continuously been delegated to a bench role, not logging serious rotational minutes until his second season. However, all would change as the Blazers roster had been flipped upside down in the middle of the 2022 regular season.
Simons value skyrocketed following his breakout stretch where the young guard took the keys to the offense and elevated his game to the point he averaged 23.4 points a night while shooting 42.3% from three in his last 27 games of the season. Simons was shut down for the season following an early loss in March to the Timberwolves as the team cited patellar tendinopathy in his left knee.
Simons is slated to slide into the starting lineup full-time and pair up with mentor Damian Lillard in the backcourt. At an average $25 million a year for Simons, and all signs pointing to a hefty extension for Lillard in the near future, the front office is committed to this pairing. Simons and Lillard shared the court for only 377 minutes over the course of the 2021-2022 NBA season, combining for just 32.6 points per game between the two in their small sample size.
Portland has instilled an otherworldly amount of trust in Simons and if the closing months of Simons season are signs of what is to come, it could be a steal of a contract come the third year of the contract. As of the day of the signing, Simons will sit as the 26th highest-paid guard in the NBA.
To see the undeniable growth of Simons comparing him now to the true project he seemed to be in 2018 is something to be told. With great poise and a newfound voice as a leader, Simons multifaceted offensive game should be an easy fit next to Damian Lillard. Even with the praise, there is no ignoring room for growth. The next steps for Simons looks to be improving his defensive instincts and continuing to add muscle to his rather slim frame.
Entering just his fifth season, Simons expanding role will now allow him to tap into his true potential meaning the 2023 season will give the Blazers organization great insight into the future building block of the franchise.