The Portland Trail Blazers are expected to be active on the trade market during the summer of 2023. The pick to retain Scoot Henderson, the third overall pick in 2023 NBA Draft, Portland has taken their most easily traded asset off the market. Assuming they don’t want to trade Damian Lillard himself, Simons has become the second most mentioned candidate on the “to be traded” list.
But what value would the young shooting guard bring? That’s the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Everyone says we want to trade Ant. It makes sense. However, I haven’t heard of many serious offers for him. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard any at all. Do you think he has a lot of trade value? Or is this one of those cases where he is more valuable to us than he would be to anyone else?
At this point, I don’t think Simons is more valuable to the Blazers than other teams. It’s just scheme math. Pairing Damian Lillard and Scoot Henderson gives them two guards that they (at least eventually) expect to start. Each is a ball handler and a goal scorer. That doesn’t leave enough minutes, role or unique skills for Simons to thrive properly.
Oh, and guess what? Portland’s other promising up-and-comer, Shaedon Sharpe, plays shooting guard. That’s four offense-heavy guards who need serious minutes in line for just two positions.
All of this is environmental though. Simon’s individual skills are still exciting.
Granted, in today’s NBA, scoring 20 is the new 18. Still, Simons ended up averaging 21.1 points per game. game in 30th place in the league last season. That is not bad.
16 of those top-30 scorers were guards. Simons ranks 12th of the 16 in field goal percentage, but 6th in three-point percentage. And his three-point percentage this year (.377) pales in comparison to the stellar numbers he put up over the last two (.405 in 2021-22, .426 in 2022-23). With a steadier, more prominent role in the offense, his percentages may well increase. Either way, he still has that lightning-quick three-point release that is nearly impossible to stop.
Simons’ assist numbers have grown over the past two seasons. There is reason to believe he could at least handle light guard duties. He is also among the half-dozen youngest of the top 30 scorers. Those things also recommend him.
The contract the Blazers gave Simons last season will be in effect for three more years. He is scheduled to earn $77.7 million over the course of the term. It’s not a huge change, but if scoring 20 is the new 18, making $20 million is the new 15. With the new CBA limiting overspending, the early impression in the wake of the adoption of the been economic austerity. It’s easy to forget that overall, franchises will spend more in the coming years because of the new broadcasting deals. The average wage will increase, not decrease. Simons’ contract is already in line with his production and should look fine for years to come.
Ant won’t be an automatic fit everywhere, but he wouldn’t be a bad one for any team except those that, like Portland, already have too much backcourt scoring. Some GMs out there are going to tilt their heads to the side, look at the potential and welcome him with open arms.
However, establishing Simons as trade-worthy is only half the battle. The other question is the one you mentioned: How much is he worth?
Nobody here is an NBA General Manager. Nobody here thinks like one. But I’d like to pass on to you a basic human interaction that might illustrate the situation.
I recently spoke with colleagues who cover another NBA team about the possibility of them making a move for Lillard. To protect the anonymity of my interlocutors, we will keep that team nameless.
The first thing I noticed was that we weren’t looking for Mikal Bridges. The purpose of the deal was to unite Lillard and Bridges in their team. It was candy that lured them into action.
So then, with Bridges off the table, I asked, “What about Nic Claxton?”
So no. They liked Claxton’s youth, defensive ability and connection to the franchise. So no Claxton.
“Ok then, how about Ben Simmons and some really serious compensation?”
Believe it or not, they thought there was a chance Simmons would come back strong. So they abolished that. However, they mumbled something about a sign-and-trade for Cam Johnson.
Putting aside the harsh consequences of this offer, plus their reluctance to throw away valuable draft picks, we had an interpersonal problem to deal with at that point. “You’re really telling me you’re going to take Damian Lillard, but we have to dig down to your fourth best player…not first, second or third, but FOURTH…before you start thinking about compensation? Sorry me what?”
If you felt that in your gut, now imagine you’re an opposing GM picking up the phone on a Blazers trade offer.
“Are you putting Lillard up?”
“Scoot Henderson, then?”
“Shaedon Sharpe anyway!”
No. We’re talking about Anfernee Simons, if not our fourth best player, fourth most promising at the moment.
As we said above, GM’s will definitely listen to, and perhaps be intrigued by, what Simons has to offer. But if you think for a hot second that you’re getting their star for your fourth best guy, re-read the stomach wrench dialogue above.
Simons would be a great conversation starter for a really good role player, even a veteran. Teams could go young-for-old with him and score for multifaceted play, even backcourt for frontcourt. However, they are not going to go star for star. This is where Simons falls short. If the Blazers hope for that kind of move, they need to throw in plenty of future picks. Even then I think it would be quite difficult.
If and when the Blazers trade Simons, my guess is that the other team will walk away feeling like they got a bargain because of his youth and point production, while the Blazers walk away feeling like they filled a need via a solid but not spectacular, Return.
Maybe I’ll be surprised? It happens. But I have a gut feeling that the only way for Portland to extract maximum value for Simons at this point would be to keep him and trade someone else instead. If they do move Ant, it will probably be an “eye of the beholder” situation for both teams rather than a mind blowing deal.
Thanks for the question! You can all submit yours to blaz[email protected] and we’ll try to answer as many as we can!