Simons Named Second Team As Trail Blazers Start To Move Past Summer League

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers’ defense of their 2018 Las Vegas Summer League tournament championship didn’t go the way they had hoped, but they’re still returning home with a little bit of hardware.

Despite appearing in just the first three games before sitting out the remainder of Portland’s schedule in Las Vegas with a sprained right ankle, Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons was named to the All-MGM Resorts NBA Summer League Second Team my media vote.

In his second stint in Las Vegas, the 6-4 guard out of IMG Academy averaged 22.0 points, which ranks seventh among 2019 participants, on 56 percent shooting from the field and 65 percent shooting from three, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals 26.3 minutes per game during summer league play. His 35 points in Portland's 97-93 loss to the Utah Jazz on July 9 stands is the most any player scored at the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League and is the second-most points scored by a Trail Blazer all-time at summer league (36, Jerryd Bayless, 7/19/2008).

Despite Simons' impressive shooting numbers, the Trail Blazers went just 1-3 in preliminary round play after going a perfect 7-0 in 2018. The Trail Blazers finished their five-game schedule in Las Vegas with a 2-3 record thanks to a come-from-behind victory in their consolation game versus the Milwaukee Bucks on July 12, though Simons sat out that contest, as well as the previous game, a 92-87 loss to the Thunder on July 11.

With a losing record, the Trail Blazers did not qualify for the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League tournament -- only eight teams comprised tournament play this year, a change from previous years -- after making the title game in both 2017 and 2018. Portland won the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League tournament championship by way of defeating the Lakers 91-73 and were optimistic about their chances of returning, though ultimately those aspirations would go unfulfilled.

However, if you look at Portland's 2019 summer league roster, it's not hard to figure out why they were not able to make a third-straight trip to the tournament final. After bringing rosters replete with players already on the regular-season roster and drafted rookies in recent seasons, the team the Trail Blazers brought to Las Vegas in 2019 had just two returning Trail Blazers (Simons and Gary Trent Jr.) and one drafted rookie (Nassir Little).

Without the same level of talent and a lack of familiarity, both in terms of plays and personnel, the 2019 summer league Trail Blazers were blown out by the Pistons in their first game in Las Vegas and struggled to find any real consistency, especially on the defensive end, throughout their run in the desert. Injuries to both Simons and Little (left shoulder) left a team already at a talent disadvantage with a slim margin for error.

But when you consider the regular-season Trail Blazers finished their 2018-19 campaign by advancing to the Western Conference Finals, their struggles in the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League make sense. After all, Portland is no longer the young, upstart team they have been in recent seasons past, and hence, their roster is mostly devoid of first and second year players. And what few fledglings they do have played sparingly last season -- Simons and Trent Jr., the only players on the 2019 summer league roster who were also on the 2018-19 regular season team, combined for 35 NBA appearances during their rookie campaigns -- which you would expect of a team making a deep postseason run.

So this time around, the Trail Blazers leave Las Vegas with little more than a few lessons and Simons' second team honor. Such is the sacrifice for regular-season success.


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