Anfernee Simons

Northwest Notes: Edwards, Jazz, Mitchell, Trail Blazers

Anthony Edwards has posted some big offensive numbers during the postseason and the Timberwolves’ second-year guard is embracing the spotlight, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Edwards racked up 36 points in the Game 1 upset of Memphis and was thrilled to have a national audience to witness it.

“I think it’s very important to play at my best because they hide me during the regular season as far as no national TV games,” Edwards said. “So, people don’t really get to see me play unless I have an enormous game where I score 40-something or hit a game-winning shot or I get a huge dunk. I feel like games like this, I have to take advantage of because it’s the only time I get to be on TV so I’m trying to showcase my talent and everything I can do.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Luka Doncic‘s calf strain has actually put more pressure on the Jazz this postseason, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News opines. Dallas evened up the series with a victory in Game 2 on Monday. If the Jazz fail to eliminate a Mavericks team operating without their franchise player for at least part of the series, they would likely undergo major changes throughout the organization this offseason.
  • Donovan Mitchell made some comments out of frustration late in the regular season as the Jazz stumbled into the playoffs, saying “it’s the same s—” that had led to the team’s demise in previous seasons. However, Mitchell addressed the team shortly after those comments were made to reassure his teammates that he had seen growth with this current group and still believed in their chances to make a deep run, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports.
  • The Trail Blazers have the resources for an accelerated rebuild, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) writes in his offseason guide. They can go over the cap to re-sign key free agents Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic and use their $20.9MM trade exception to pull off a major deal. They’ll also have the $10.3MM mid-level exception at their disposal in free agency.

Blazers Notes: Offseason, Nurkic, Simons, Billups

While they finished the season with only the NBA’s sixth-worst record, no team tanked harder down the stretch than the Trail Blazers, who were playing without most of their veteran starters. After shutting down center Jusuf Nurkic at the All-Star break, Portland went 2-21 the rest of the way, with a net rating of -21.3, by far the league’s worst mark during that stretch.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, general manager Joe Cronin said he felt “uncomfortable” about how the Blazers’ season ended, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. Cronin said the team “didn’t want to lose ball games,” but was more focused on developing its young players than competing for a playoff spot.

“We had to take a step backwards in order to move forward,” Cronin said. “We’ve positioned ourselves to where I think we’ve got some great opportunities. We have a really intriguing core: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little, Justise Winslow. Potentially two lottery picks, numerous cap exceptions, a bunch of cap flexibility. We are determined to get better, to be competitive as quickly as possible and we’re super confident in our ability to do that.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Although Cronin listed them as part of Portland’s core, Jusuf Nurkic (unrestricted) and Anfernee Simons (restricted) will both be free agents this summer. Cronin’s comments on Monday strongly suggest the Blazers want to re-sign both players. The general manager called Nurkic a player “we would definitely want to build around” and said the team plans to be “proactive” with Simons’ free agency, per Holdahl.
  • The Blazers will have at least one pick in this year’s draft lottery and could have a second if the Pelicans miss the playoffs and don’t move into the top four. As Holdahl relays, Cronin’s goal with Portland’s first-rounder is to “maximize the pick,” which could mean either drafting a player or using it in a trade. “I’m going to spend the next two, three, four weeks diving into the game film and really evaluating this draft and particularly assessing value to what that pick is,” Cronin said. “So then you compare that to what’s available in the (trade) marketplace and then you make a decision. If we decide the player at that pick is much more valuable than what we can get in the marketplace, we do that direction. If it’s the opposite, we go the other direction.”
  • The Blazers are confident that head coach Chauncey Billups will be an asset when it comes to recruiting free agents, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. “He’s just so inspiring, even in a 30-minute meeting. It’s just easy to buy in with him,” Cronin said.
  • Josh Hart has only been a Blazer for a couple months, but he said this week that if a player calls him to ask about Billups this summer, he’ll have nothing but praise for Portland’s head coach. “I would say he’s great,” Hart said, according to Quick. “He’s a players’ coach, someone who does a great job of building you up, coaching you up, but a good balance in holding you accountable. And off the court, he cares about you as a person. That’s a big thing, something that gets overlooked sometimes.”

Northwest Notes: Simons, Lillard, Jokic, Finch

Anfernee Simons says he’s “pretty sure” he’ll be back with the Trail Blazers next season, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets“We both have a mutual interest in coming back,” Simons said of being a restricted free agent this summer. “I’m pretty sure it will get done.” Simons expressed back in February he “100 percent” wanted to re-sign with Portland — it seems nothing has changed since then.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Damian Lillard expects the Trail Blazers to return to prominence in the Western Conference next season and will have a say in the team’s roster building, according to Highkin (Twitter links). “A tough season, a lot of adversity this year,” Lillard said. “A lot of things came up that we didn’t expect. But I want you to know one thing: this will not continue. Next year, we’re going to be back better than before.”
  • Nikola Jokic gained a $534,484 bonus when the Nuggets made the playoffs again. The incentive was considered likely before the season and has no cap implications, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Jokic is a prime contender for the Most Valuable Player award once again but he knows there’s plenty of worthy candidates, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets“To be honest, I think there is a lot of guys that are playing at an extremely high level,” he said. “I’m just trying to be humble, to stay on the ground. … I don’t think about that to be honest, am I one of the best? I’m just trying to win the game.”
  • Timberwolves coach Chris Finch signed a multi-year extension on Monday and the team’s top executive was glad to lock him up long-term, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. “He’s just a joy to work with,” executive VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta said. “I think the results on the floor are clear, just the drastic improvement from last year to this year, with really little change to the roster. I think he and his whole staff deserve a ton of credit for that.” Finch said, “I feel like there’s a pathway we can see to keep getting better and better. I’m just really excited to be able to say that these guys believe in what I’m doing.”

Blazers Rule Out Nurkic, Simons, Bledsoe For Season

The Trail Blazers confirmed today in a press release that center Jusuf Nurkic and guards Anfernee Simons and Eric Bledsoe won’t return for the team this season.

According to today’s announcement, Nurkic (left foot plantar fasciitis) and Simons (patellar tendinopathy in his left knee) have responded well to treatment and rehabilitation, with Nurkic’s rehab program reducing his symptoms and increasing the “overall function” of his left foot and ankle.

Nurkic will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Simons will be a restricted free agent. However, both players – especially Simons – are considered good bets to re-sign with Portland.

Bledsoe, who hasn’t played in a game for the Blazers since being acquired from the Clippers prior to February’s trade deadline, received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection last Wednesday to address the tendinopathy in his left Achilles tendon, per the team. Bledsoe technically has one more year left on his contract, but only $3.9MM of his $19.4MM salary for 2022/23 is guaranteed, so he appears likely to be waived in the offseason.

The Blazers issued injury updates on two more players, announcing that swingman Josh Hart, who has missed the club’s last four games due to patellar tendinopathy in his left knee, will be reevaluated in a week. There will only be one week left in the season at that point, so it won’t be a major surprise if Hart doesn’t play again in 2021/22.

Meanwhile, Didi Louzada – acquired from New Orleans last month in the CJ McCollum trade – is in the final stages of his return-to-play protocol after undergoing surgery on a torn mensicus on February 4. The Blazers expect him to play before the end of the season.

Damian Lillard (abdominal surgery), Nassir Little (shoulder surgery), and Joe Ingles (ACL surgery) have previously been ruled out for the season by the Blazers, while Trendon Watford (hyperextended left knee and bone bruise) is also questionable to return within the next two weeks.

Anfernee Simons Out At Least 1-2 Weeks

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons has been diagnosed with mild patellar tendinopathy in his left knee after an MRI on Thursday, the team announced. He’s set to be reevaluated in one-to-two weeks.

Simons has missed Portland’s last two games while dealing with the injury. Through 57 games this season, the 22-year-old is averaging career-highs of 17.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 29.5 minutes. He sports an efficient shooting slash line of .443/.405/.888 (.583 true).

Simons was the No. 24 overall pick of the 2018 draft. He’s a candidate for the Most Improved Player award after seeing his numbers increase across the board. His emergence this season is a primary reason why the team opted to trade CJ McCollum to the Pelicans last month.

The combo guard will be a restricted free agent this summer and will receive a significant raise on the $3,938,818 he’s making this season. Simons said a few weeks ago that he plans to re-sign with the Blazers.

I 100% want to stay in Portland,” Simons said, per Ben Pickman of Sports Illustrated. “And I think everybody wants me to stay as well. I think it’s a perfect fit for me.”

After losing six straight games, the Blazers are currently 25-40, the No. 11 seed in the West. They trail New Orleans by one-and-a-half games for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

Western Notes: Simons, Suns, Jazz, Thunder

Blazers guard Anfernee Simons is adjusting to his new role of being the number one option on the team, Casey Holdahl of NBA.com writes. Portland traded away CJ McCollum, Norman Powell and others at the trade deadline and is missing Damian Lillard due to an abdominal injury, clearing the way for Simons to receive a larger role.

“Obviously I’m going to be at the top of the scouting report even more now that (Jusuf Nurkic) is out,” Simons said. Nurkic is dealing with a foot injury and will miss at least three more weeks. “So just learning how to navigate through that. Obviously it’s going to be even more tougher for me but it’s the perfect time to see everything.

“Like, the Warriors threw a box-and-one at me, probably the first time I’ve been boxed-and-one’d since high school. That was an interesting thing to kind of navigate though.”

Simons is in his fourth season with the franchise. He’s averaging a career-high 17.3 points and 3.9 assists per game, shooting 44% from the field, 40.5% from deep and 89% from the free throw line. He most recently finished with 38 points in a loss to the Timberwolves on Saturday.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Unlikely heroes are stepping up for the Suns in the absences of Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (protocols), Cydney Henderson of USA Today writes. Phoenix received a key performance from Cameron Johnson on Friday, as the 26-year-old finished with 38 points and a buzzer-beating game-winner. Mikal Bridges also added 20 points, while Cameron Payne recorded 17 points and 16 assists.
  • The Jazz could be facing an offseason of massive change if they don’t make a deep postseason run, ESPN’s Tim McMahon suggested on The Lowe Post. Utah has had an inconsistent season — the team is 8-2 in its last 10 games but lost by 34 on Friday against New Orleans — and could break up the Donovan MitchellRudy Gobert partnership if it doesn’t succeed this year.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores how the Thunder could drive various blockbuster deals this summer. Oklahoma City will be armed with cap space and draft picks from a massive rebuild. As Pincus notes, the team currently has up to $31.8MM in cap space, but nearly all of it will be lost when the league calendar year flips on July 1. The assessment comes from factoring in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s new extension and assuming Derrick Favors exercises his $10.2MM player option.

Anfernee Simons Plans To Re-Sign With Blazers

Anfernee Simons will be a restricted free agent this summer, but the young Trail Blazers guard is content with his current situation.

Simons, who is enjoying a breakout season, says he has no desire to go anywhere else, according to Ben Pickman of Sports Illustrated.

“I 100% want to stay in Portland,” Simons said. “And I think everybody wants me to stay as well. I think it’s a perfect fit for me.”

Simons, a 2018 first-round pick, played a backup role in his first three seasons. Injuries to CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, and the subsequent trade of McCollum to New Orleans, opened up a starting spot for Simons and he’s thrived under first-year head coach and former NBA point guard Chauncey Billups.

Simons is averaging 17.0 PPG and 3.9 APG in 29.3 MPG for the season. As a starter, he’s averaging 22.0 PPG and 5.8 APG.

The current qualifying offer for Portland to make Simons a restricted free agent is $5,758,551. However, he could meet the starter criteria before the season’s end, which would increase that figure to $7,921,300.

It seems a formality that the Trail Blazers will extend the QO, which would allow them to match any offer sheet to Simons.

He views the McCollum trade as another sign that the front office is keen on re-signing him.

“I have a management that really believes in me and wants to see me succeed and wants me to help them reach a championship level,” the 22-year-old said.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Finch, Wolves, Masks, Simons, Watford

Rudy Gobert still believes in Utah’s title chances this season, even if most of the league has counted the Jazz out, as Sarah Todd of the Deseret News relays.

It’s about embracing the wins and the losses, and I believe in our group,” Gobert said. “I really believe that we can accomplish our goal. … Everything that we’ve been through only helped us grow and have prepared us even for that moment when it comes. I’m excited for the second part of the season and I know that we’re going to be ready to make a push.”

Todd points out that the Jazz have struggled against top-tier teams this season, blowing multiple big leads, and if they truly want to compete for a championship, they can’t afford those types of mental lapses.

We’ve got to learn quickly,” coach Quin Snyder said. “Start developing the ability to push the lead as opposed to essentially giving it back.”

The Jazz don’t have the luxury of an “on-off” switch, they need to be “on” all the time in order to prepare for a postseason push, and Todd believes that level of consistency has been lacking this season.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic recently wrote a story about coach Chris Finch‘s eventful first year with the Timberwolves. “He is very direct when he talks to us, to the players,” offensive coordinator Pablo Prigioni said. “He’s honest. He don’t tell the guys what they want to hear, he tells them the truth. He’s not a big talker. But when he talks, he goes to the point. I think the players appreciate that.” After taking over mid-season in 2020/21, Finch has helped lead the Wolves to a 31-28 record this season, seventh in the West.
  • The city of Minneapolis lifted its mask mandate Thursday morning, and the Timberwolves have followed suit. Fans will no longer be required to wear masks inside Target Center arena, the team announced.
  • Trail Blazers rising star Anfernee Simons discussed his situation in Portland with Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link). Simons says the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year Awards were both goals for him entering this season. “At first, I didn’t know if I was gonna get Most Improved because I wasn’t playing as much, that’s why I keyed in on Sixth Man, but now I’m starting to get a lot of minutes so that’s why I’m keying in on Most Improved. It’s been great how everything’s been working out,” Simons said.
  • Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) provides details on Trendon Watford‘s new standard contract with the Trail Blazers. Watford was promoted from a two-way deal. Portland used part of its remaining mid-level exception to sign Watford to a four-year deal. He’ll earn $436,482 for the remainder of this season and a guaranteed $1,563,518 next season. The final two seasons, in 2023/24 and ’24/25, are both non-guaranteed, with the Blazers holding a club option in the last season.

Trail Blazers Notes: Hart, Simons, Watford, Winslow

The Trail Blazers acquired Josh Hart last week in the trade that sent CJ McCollum to New Orleans, and Hart is the exact type of player coach Chauncey Billups wants, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

He’s my type of player from the standpoint of just being able to go and play both sides of the basketball and just be tough,” Billups said. “Not only tough, but skilled.”

Billups said Hart’s competitiveness shines through: “When he’s out there, he plays with a level of urgency that you love. I’m looking forward to just coaching him.”

In three games with his new club (all wins), Hart is averaging 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists on .600/.524/.765 shooting. Through 44 total games this season (33.7 minutes), he’s averaging 14.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on .514/.351/.754 shooting.

Here’s more from Portland:

  • Hart and rising star Anfernee Simons have showcased great chemistry in their brief time together, Fentress writes in a separate piece for The Oregonian. “He’s going to have a long, successful career in this league,” Hart said of Simons, after Portland beat New York 112-103 on Saturday. “For me, it was just really cool to be able to play off of him and see him take over the game in the third and fourth.”
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic recently wrote an in-depth profile of two-way rookie Trendon Watford, who has become a regular member of Portland’s rotation since the start of 2022. “I’m just scratching the surface,” Watford said. “I’m going to keep getting better.”
  • After dropping six straight games, the surging Blazers have won four in a row, due in no small part to the high-energy, all-around contributions of Hart and Justise Winslow. “I think he has found a home,” Nurkic said of Winslow, according to Quick of The Athletic. Through six games with Portland, Winslow is averaging 12 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals in 31.3 minutes per contest.
  • Winslow concurs with Nurkic’s assessment, per Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. “I was just traded here, I’m very happy to be here. God works in his beautiful ways,” said Winslow. “I’ve found a home. I don’t want to go anywhere, I’ve got one more year on this contact. It feels like everyone here is kind of fresh. There’s people in the organization that’s been here a long time but the coaching staff, a lot of the players just got here… I think it’s a good time for me in my life and also my basketball career.” Winslow was acquired as part of the trade that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers.

Pelicans, Blazers In Serious Talks About CJ McCollum

CJ McCollum is now the biggest name that people around the NBA expect to be dealt before this Thursday’s trade deadline, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who confirms that the Pelicans, Knicks, and Hawks remain in the mix for the Trail Blazers guard. Fischer also reported that the Pacers are among the teams believed to have interest in McCollum.

While a handful of new clubs have been identified this week as potential suitors for McCollum, the Pelicans may still be the frontrunners. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), New Orleans and Portland are engaged in “serious” discussions about McCollum, with those talks ongoing today.

Sources tell Bleacher Report that the Blazers, after sending Norman Powell to the Clippers, remain focused on creating more financial flexibility going forward and have expressed little interest in taking back future salary in a potential McCollum deal.

As Fischer explains, Portland wants to sign Anfernee Simons to a long-term deal this offseason and appears increasingly unlikely to trade Jusuf Nurkic, since he and the team have mutual interest in working out a new contract this offseason. If they keep McCollum and sign Simons and Nurkic to lucrative new deals, the Blazers would be at risk of going back into luxury tax territory next season.

A Pelicans offer for McCollum seems likely to include some combination of Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, according to Fischer, who notes that New Orleans also still has a surplus of first-round picks available to include as sweeteners, if necessary.

Fischer suggests that a Hawks proposal for McCollum may include Danilo Gallinari and Delon Wright‘s expiring contract. He’s skeptical that the Knicks would be able to make an appealing offer, pointing to Evan Fournier‘s and Julius Randle‘s long-term contracts as pieces Portland wouldn’t want to take back. Theoretically, New York could put together a package of players on shorter-term contracts, such as Alec Burks, Kemba Walker, and Nerlens Noel, but it’s unclear exactly which players the club would be willing to put on the table.

Marc Berman of The New York Post, confirming the Knicks have talked to Portland about McCollum, says New York also had interest in Powell before he was sent to Los Angeles.