Anfernee Simons

Blazers Rumors: McCollum, Simmons, Lillard, Powell, More

Teams are calling the Trail Blazers to inquire on guard CJ McCollum and offering the opportunity for Portland to move into the “top part of the draft,” according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. However, Quick reports that the Blazers aren’t seriously considering those offers, since they’re in win-now mode and are seeking veteran help rather than rookies.

As Quick details, the Blazers are open to a trade that would allow them to acquire an upgrade on McCollum. However, there are no obvious opportunities out there. A swap revolving around McCollum and Ben Simmons has long been the subject of speculation, but Quick suggests the Sixers likely wouldn’t be enticed by such a deal, even if Portland adds a young player like Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little to its offer.

Here’s more on the Blazers from Quick:

  • Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey has met twice with Damian Lillard since the season ended. They had a three-hour sitdown on June 19 at the team’s practice facility and then met in Las Vegas with new head coach Chauncey Billups last Friday, per Quick. During those meetings, Lillard conveyed his publicly-stated preference that the Blazers act with more urgency in upgrading their roster.
  • Despite Lillard’s call for urgency, it remains to be seen whether Portland will do anything drastic with its roster this summer. Quick says “there appears to be an inclination to run this group back again” in the hopes that Billups’ influence and a full season of Powell raise the Blazers’ ceiling. Quick acknowledges that exercising patience would be a risky approach, given Lillard’s unease, but points out there are some similarities to 2018, when the club made few roster changes after being swept in the first round and then reached the Western Finals in 2019.
  • Re-signing Norman Powell is the Blazers’ top priority in free agency. Billups recently met with Powell in Las Vegas and “communicated his vision” to the veteran swingman. The team hopes the hiring of Billups helps convince Powell to remain in Portland.
  • Olshey recognizes that building a bench led by Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter contributed to the team’s defensive shortcomings and will aim to add “long, rangy” players who can guard multiple positions and comfortably switch on defense, according to Quick.
  • The Blazers will likely try to buy a second-round pick in next Thursday’s draft, says Quick.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Blazers, Hernangomez, Nuggets

While it doesn’t look at this point like the Trail Blazers will seriously explore Damian Lillard trades this offseason, that doesn’t mean they’re not getting calls about their All-NBA point guard. Front office sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have been the most aggressive suitors for Lillard as of late.

With no Lillard trade request imminent, the Blazers are more likely to pursue upgrades around the star guard, though O’Connor notes that the team’s trade assets are somewhat limited. Portland doesn’t have any draft picks this year and rival teams aren’t particularly high on young players like Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little, according to O’Connor. The club’s best bet for a deal that reshapes the roster and increases its ceiling might involve CJ McCollum and Ben Simmons, O’Connor adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

Western Notes: Johnson, Redick, Blazers, Jensen

Mavericks forward James Johnson missed five games for Dallas due to both traveling for a family emergency and then needing to enter COVID-19 protocols, but the veteran enforcer rejoined the Mavericks for a team practice today, according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com. Johnson can return to the hardwood tomorrow for the club’s game against the Timberwolves, Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com (Twitter link) adds.

“We don’t get that much chemistry going on throughout this [COVID-19] thing, and how we have to be separated a lot,” Johnson noted of this unique 2020/21 season. “The times that we can get it are at practice and on the road, and I miss that.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Veteran Pelicans wing J.J. Redick is most likely to be bought out of his expiring $13MM contract after the trade deadline passes, and ink a deal with a team on the East Coast to be near his family, sources tell Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and forward Nassir Little have entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols and are missing at least this evening’s contest against the Nets, Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com tweets.
  • Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen has been given the go-ahead by the team to interview for the head coaching gig with his alma matter, the University of Utah, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). Brandon Judd of the Deseret News notes that Jensen, a former Utes player, has been on the Jazz’s bench since 2013.

Simons, Stanley, Toppin To Compete In Dunk Contest

Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Cassius Stanley of the Pacers, and Obi Toppin of the Knicks will compete for the annual Slam Dunk title at halftime of the All-Star game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the NBA announced in a press release.

Simons, a 6’3” guard, is averaging 8.2 PPG in his third NBA season. Stanley is a 6’5″ rookie guard on a two-way contract after being selected in the second round last fall. He recorded a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches in the 2020 draft combine. Toppin, a 6’9″ rookie forward and lottery pick, is averaging 4.6 PPG in 25 games off the bench.

The 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game, has a lot more star power. Suns guard Devin Booker and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, former winners of the long-ball contest, head the list of participants. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Jazz‘s Donovan Mitchell round out the six-man field.

The Skills Challenge, which will also be held prior to the game, also has plenty of All-Star firepower. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Suns guard Chris Paul head that six-man listKnicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington round out the field.

Anfernee Simons, Cassius Stanley Expected To Join Dunk Contest

Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and Pacers two-way guard Cassius Stanley are expected to join Knicks forward Obi Toppin in the All-Star slam dunk contest on March 7, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

All three players would be first-time participants in the contest, which is set to take place at halftime of the All-Star Game next Sunday.

Simons, 21, has averaged 8.5 points, 1.2 assists and 17.5 minutes for Portland this season. Stanley would become the first player on a two-way contract to ever compete in a dunk contest — the 21-year-old has only appeared in eight games for the Pacers this year.

Along with the dunk contest, the three-point contest and skills competition will also be held on March 7 in Atlanta. The league’s traditional method of spreading the events over a weekend has been voided this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Charania’s Latest: Nets, Roberson, Ball, Simons, Faried

Before they signed veteran swingman Iman Shumpert in an effort to improve their wing defense, the Nets considered longtime Thunder forward Andre Roberson, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link), the Nets’ interest in Roberson wasn’t just cursory — the team actually worked him out before signing Shumpert.

Roberson, who is limited on offense but has a reputation as a defensive stopper, returned last August during the NBA’s summer restart after having missed over two full years due to knee issues. However, his contract expired at season’s end and he has yet to catch on with a new NBA team. Given how many of Brooklyn’s end-of-roster players have non-guaranteed salaries, it’s possible the Nets could open up a spot and circle back to Roberson later in the season, as Lewis notes.

Here’s more from Charania:

  • The Raptors and Nets – who were both mentioned by Charania as possible Andre Drummond suitors via trade or buyout – are viewed as two teams in the market for frontcourt help. Charania suggests the Mavericks, Lakers, and Trail Blazers are among the clubs likely to join that list.
  • Charania confirms that the Bulls have some interest in Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, but says the two teams haven’t engaged in any dialogue about a possible trade.
  • Rival teams are keeping an eye on Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, according to Charania. There’s no indication Portland has interest in moving Simons, but other clubs may envision a larger scoring and play-making role for him than he has in Portland, where he backs up an All-NBA point guard.
  • Veteran big man Kenneth Faried, 31, is working out in Los Angeles and hopes to make an NBA comeback, per Charania.

Northwest Notes: Rubio, Morris, Simons, Mitchell

Ricky Rubio believes the Timberwolves are playing selfishly, which has led to 11 losses in their last 12 games, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Rubio, who returned to action Friday after clearing COVID-19 protocols, says the team needs to air out its issues.

“It would be good to have a long meeting, but I don’t think we can have more than a 10-minute meeting,” the Timberwolves guard said. “But we need like a three-hour meeting. After talking, we got to execute the words that we have.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Monte Morris is grateful the Nuggets extended his contract during the offseason, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “The contract got me at peace,” he said. Morris, who signed a three-year, $27MM extension early last month, is averaging a career-high 11.7 PPG and 3.2 APG in 26.3 MPG through Denver’s first 15 games.
  • It’s time for third-year guard Anfernee Simons to assert himself with CJ McCollum sidelined by a foot injury, Jason Quick of The Athletic opines. Simons needs to show he can consistently make 3-pointers, run the team and defend without fouling, Quick says. In Simons’ last outing, he scored six points in 15 minutes on Monday. The Trail Blazers picked up their 2021/22 option on Simons last month.
  • While Donovan Mitchell has received some criticism for his lack of impact on the defensive end, he’s living up to his bill as the Jazz‘s franchise player, Tony Jones of The Athletic argues. There’s little doubt that Mitchell is capable of being the No. 1 offensive option on a title team, Jones asserts. Mitchell, who signed a max extension in November, is averaging career highs in points (24.3), assists (4.9) and 3-point shooting (40.8%).

Trail Blazers Pick Up 2021/22 Options For Simons, Little

The Trail Blazers have picked up the 2021/22 season options for third-year guard Anfernee Simons and second-year forward Nassir Little, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

After appearing in just 20 games during his 2018/19 rookie campaign, Simons, 21, earned a slot in Portland’s rotation during his second season with the club, 2019/20. The 6’3″ guard averaged 8.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 1.4 APG in 20.7 MPG across 70 games.

The team has now locked in the $3,938,818 2021/22 season salary for Simons. If the Trail Blazers and Simons do not reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension next offseason, the guard will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022.

Little, 20, was drafted with the No. 25 pick in 2019 after one season at North Carolina. The 6’5″ forward appeared in 48 games during his rookie season, averaging 11.9 MPG. He is set to earn $2,316,240 next season.

The league deadline for teams to exercise third- and fourth-year team options on rookie scale contracts is December 29.

Blazers Notes: Collins, Hood, Free Agency, Simons

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins, whose 2019/20 season came to an early end when he underwent ankle surgery in August, isn’t expected to be ready to go for the start of the ’20/21 campaign, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said today (Twitter link via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian). According to Olshey, Collins will likely be out until mid-January or so.

With Collins out of the lineup for the time being, the door may be open for newly-added big men Enes Kanter and Harry Giles to pick up some extra minutes at the start of the season. The Blazers could also end up leaning more heavily on smaller lineups with Robert Covington or Carmelo Anthony at the four.

Here’s more out of Portland:

  • Olshey expects swingman Rodney Hood, who is returning from a torn Achilles, to be ready for opening night (Twitter link via Freeman).
  • Portland’s offseason moves were aimed at improving the team’s defense and adding versatility and athleticism to the squad, Olshey said (per Freeman). The additions of Covington and Derrick Jones, in particular, should help on that front.
  • The Blazers, who intend to lean on Anfernee Simons as their backup point guard, don’t plan to fill their 15th roster spot due to potential luxury tax concerns, Olshey said (Twitter link via Freeman).

Lowe’s Latest: Beal, Celtics, Culver, Heat, Gordon, More

Teams with interest in Bradley Beal haven’t given up hope that the Wizards will consider trading him this fall, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, who notes that multiple “strong playoff teams” have looked into what it would take to acquire a top-10 pick and may be seeking extra assets to swing a big trade for someone like Beal.

However, the Wizards have shown zero interest in trading Beal, even for the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, sources tell ESPN. The Timberwolves (No. 1) and Warriors (No. 2) are both known to be hoping to trade their selections for an All-NBA caliber player like Beal (or Ben Simmons or Devin Booker), but it seems unlikely that such a deal will materialize, says Lowe.

For the Wizards to really consider the idea of moving Beal, he may have to tell the team he would prefer to play elsewhere, per Lowe. Perhaps that will happen down the road if Washington doesn’t bounce back from a second consecutive lottery finish, but it hasn’t to this point.

Here’s much more from Lowe:

  • Lowe confirms the Celtics have explored using their three first-round picks to trade up in the draft, but says Boston is considering a number of options with those picks, including trying to trade for a “solid veteran.” Since so many teams are in win-now mode, there aren’t many of those players available, according to Lowe, who says that Larry Nance Jr. and Dennis Schröder are among the players who could be under-the-radar targets for teams looking to upgrade their rotations.
  • Jarrett Culver‘s name has popped up in trade rumors, but Lowe thinks the Timberwolves would only move him in a package for a star, or for a draft pick that would help acquire a star. Lowe adds that he thinks Minnesota will dangle the No. 17 pick and James Johnson‘s expiring contract in search of a veteran contributor.
  • While Lowe thinks the Heat should be able to re-sign Goran Dragic on a big one-year deal, he expects it to be tougher for Miami to take the same approach with Jae Crowder, who will likely receive multiyear offers in the mid-level range.
  • Rival executives have pitched the idea of the Mavericks acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Jazz, but Lowe is skeptical there will be a match there and believes Dallas will have a tough time acquiring a third star via trade this offseason.
  • It’s unclear what sort of leaguewide interest there is in Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Lowe points to the Trail Blazers as a potential match, but says the two teams have never seriously discussed a swap involving Gordon and CJ McCollum and isn’t sure whether lesser assets like Zach Collins or Anfernee Simons would appeal to Orlando.
  • Lowe’s offseason preview is jam-packed with many more notes and is worth checking out in full. We relayed a number of Lowe’s other most intriguing tidbits in our stories earlier today, including items on the Bucks, Pistons, and Knicks.