September 19, 2018, 4:44 pm
Leading up to the Portland Trail Blazers’ season-opener against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Moda Center on October 18, HoopBall is profiling the team’s 15 players with guaranteed contracts, in reverse order of price.
Player: Anfernee Simons
2018-19 salary: $1,835,520
Age, experience: 19, rookie
Measureables: 6-foot-4, 183 pounds (6-foot-9 and 3/4 inch wingspan)
Strengths: explosiveness, first step, length, long-range shooting, ball handling
Weaknesses: strength, experience, court vision
Swing factor: 3-point shooting
Likely role: G-League
Neil Olshey’s hands were mostly tied this summer. Despite a public-relations blitz about adding an experienced wing in wake of his team getting swept out of the playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers’ general manager never had the means to acquire a player of that caliber. But such hollow talk didn’t mean Portland had to punt on the notion of acquiring a potential rotation player; several intriguing options of the 3-and-D variety were poised to be available with the Blazers first-round pick.
If Anfernee Simons underwhelms, both as a rookie and going forward, there’s a chance the frustrating subtext of his selection is a contributing factor. After weeks of being promised by management that their team was finally finished rebuilding, ready to focus fully on the present, Portland fans weren’t thrilled with bringing in an anonymous high-schooler who plays the same position as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Any criticism directed at Simons was less about the chance the teenager makes good on his obvious wealth of talent; it stemmed from the chance he does so while this team’s core is still in its prime, and how Terry Stotts would dole out minutes if that hope eventually comes to pass.
There’s no disputing that prospects of Simons’ raw potential normally can’t be had with the 24th pick in the draft. At 6-foot-4 with a wingspan nearly six inches longer, he’s physically comparable to San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, an All-Defensive Second Team pick last season at 22. But the skill limitations that hold Murray back aren’t encumbering Simons. He shot 34.6 percent from three on a team-high 4.3 attempts per game in Summer League, especially encouraging numbers considering the comfort he exhibited catching and shooting a couple feet behind the line and pulling up off the dribble. There’s no reason to believe long-range shooting won’t be a strength of Simons’ game in time, combining with his natural ball-handling verve and lightning first step to make him an imminently dangerous scoring weapon both on and off the ball.
What’s less certain is whether he’ll ever develop the playmaking chops to be a primary creator. Don’t mistake that relative lack of optimism with any concerns about the feel Simons showed in Las Vegas, though. He was a reliable ball mover for the summer Blazers, and displayed keen understanding of time and space creating his own offense out of the pick and roll. But when spelling Wade Baldwin as Portland’s point guard, Simons was far more game manager than impactful playmaker for others – not a surprise given his complete lack of experience playing against professionals and pre-draft label as a combo guard.
In a perfect world, Simons would realize his destiny as a high-octane scorer with the physical tools necessary to check multiple positions sooner rather than later, pushing the Blazers closer and closer toward making a choice on their future with Lillard and McCollum manning the backcourt. His Summer League performance, understated as it may have seemed to some, only furthered the optimism Simons will eventually develop into that type of draft-night steal. But he surely won’t justify it this season, as a 19 year old playing behind Lillard, McCollum, Seth Curry and Baldwin, Portland’s designated defensive stopper, and as a result is unlikely to become a regular contributor until 2019-20 at the absolute earliest.
Where will the Blazers be then? Without an offseason that addressed this team’s need for greater lineup flexibility, it’s fair to assume Portland will befall the same fate next spring it did against the New Orleans Pelicans in April. An even worse but almost as realistic an outcome would be Stotts’ team, fighting with seven or eight others for positioning below Western Conference juggernauts, missing the playoffs altogether. Major changes would be inevitable at that point, thrusting Simons into the spotlight as a potential trade chip or foundational piece for a team suddenly forced into rebuilding.
But that’s a situation to ponder for later. Simons will be an afterthought for the most part this season, likely proving his chops in the G-League and flashing his talents in garbage time, serving as an embodiment of the Blazers’ tenuous place between staying the course and starting anew.
August 20, 2019, 10:33 pmTyronn LuePG, Los Angeles Clippers
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.
The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:28 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.
The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.
Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 6:11 pmJaylen AdamsPG, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.
Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.
August 20, 2019, 4:55 pmJeff LedbetterG, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.
Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.
Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:49 pmEric MikaC, Sacramento Kings
The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.
The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.
Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:44 pmJA MorantPG, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."
Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.
Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 2:17 pmDerrick AlstonTeam, New York Knicks
The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.
Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:21 pmCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph is not expected to play for Team Canada in the FIBA World Cup.
Team Canada has been taking a beating the last few weeks with NBA guys continuing to pull out. This news won't have any effects on Joseph's role heading into the season, but it does create another dent in Team Canada's chances of making noise in the World Cup.
Source: Doug Smith: Raptors on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 1:08 pmMarcus Georges-HuntSG, Free Agent
Jay King of The Athletic is hearing that Marcus Georges-Hunt is in Boston working out with the Celtics for the next few days.
Georges-Hunt last played in the NBA for the Wolves in the 2017-18 season. Last season Georges-Hunt was waived from the Celtics in mid-October and played nine games for the Red Claws. Georges-Hunt is a longshot to make the team and carries no fantasy relevance regardless of the outcome.
Source: Jay King on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 11:55 amDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the Lakers are planning individual workouts to evaluate centers Joakim Noah, Dwight Howard and Mo Speights this week in Los Angeles.
Marcin Gortat is also in the Lakers’ radar as the team is actively looking to sign another big after DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL last week. Speights spent the last season in China after 10 years in the NBA while Gortat remains overseas and it’s unclear whether he will be back to Los Angeles for a workout with the team.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter