The Portland Trail Blazers reached an agreement with 23-year-old restricted free-agent guard Anfernee Simons on a four-year, $100 million contract, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Simons tipped his hand this past February, when he informed Sports Illustrated's Ben Pickman, "I 100% want to stay in Portland. And I think everybody wants me to stay as well. I think it’s a perfect fit for me."
Simons moved into Portland's starting lineup at the start of January, when an abdominal injury ended All-Star point guard Damian Lillard's season. The Blazers also dealt Lillard's longtime backcourt mate CJ McCollum at the February trading deadline, further increasing Simons' usage in the second half of the season. He averaged 23.4 points (on 46/42/87 shooting splits), 5.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds over 27 games as a starter, before patellar tendinopathy in his left knee (and Portland's tanking effort) prematurely ended his season.
So soon after ending one era built on a pair of smaller offensive-minded guards, which resulted in one Western Conference finals appearance and four first-round playoff exits since 2017, the Blazers invested in another. Lillard is eligible for a contract extension this summer that would also lock him up through 2026.
How the 6-foot-3 Simons pairs with the 6-2 Lillard will be a fascinating subplot of this coming season. Lineups featuring Lillard and Simons, without McCollum, registered a net rating of zero this past season, and they were outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions during the 2020-21 campaign. If it becomes evident that this pairing will bear no more fruit than the last, would the Blazers and Lillard be satisfied?
The Blazers acquired Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons prior to this month's draft, hoping he will provide more help than a carousel of wings over the years that has included Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Rodney Hood, Evan Turner, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Gary Trent Jr., Norman Powell and Robert Covington. Portland also drafted shooting guard Shaedon Sharpe as a project with the No. 8 overall pick.
The win-now move for Grant all but ensured the Blazers would do everything possible to retain Simons and free-agent center Jusuf Nurkic this summer. The 27-year-old Nurkic has played the past five-plus seasons in Portland, averaging 14.6 points (54/27/69), 9.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 272 games during his tenure.
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