Blazers take guard Anfernee Simons with 24th pick

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Portland Trail Blazers acquired two guards during Thursday’s NBA draft, landing IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons and Duke’s Gary Trent Jr.

Simons was the 24th pick of the draft. Portland got Trent after acquiring the rights to the 37th pick by trading two future second-round picks to Sacramento.

The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Simons didn’t play in college. He initially committed to Louisville but after the school fired coach Rick Pitino in October, Simons opted to attend IMG Academy in Florida. Simons, who turned 19 this month, averaged 22.4 points and shot 45 percent last season.

Simons is the first player since 2005 to land in the draft without playing in college or overseas. Simons was eligible for the draft because he’s 19 and one year removed from his high school graduation. The Blazers’ roster had the youngest average age among NBA teams last season.

The Blazers twice brought Simons to Portland for workouts. Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said because Simons didn’t go through the rigors of a college season, they needed additional proof that he was worthy of a first-round selection.

”At that point in the draft we were looking for the guy with the highest ceiling. He has a really bright future. We know he’s going to work,” Olshey said. ”There’s some risk; not a guy with a big body of work. But that’s not our job to play it safe.”

Olshey, who sees Simons as a combo guard, acknowledges the learning curve as rookie will be steep.

”He may be a deer in the headlights for a little bit. But for Anfernee, he’ll get it,” Olshey said.

Of the Blazers’ two selections, Olshey believes the 6-6 Trent has the best chance of making an impact next season.

To acquire Trent, Portland sent a 2019 second-round pick and the 2021 pick it earlier obtained from Miami to Sacramento for the 37th selection. As a freshman at Duke, Trent shot 40.2 percent from 3-point range and averaged 14.5 points per game.

”We’re all looking for shooting, and this is a guy we think can step in right away,” Olshey said. ”I don’t think we feel the need to be as patient with Gary based on his body of work as we do with Anfernee.”

The Blazers also landed Trent’s father, Gary Sr., with a draft-day trade in 1995. Trent said playing for the same franchise as his father ”is surreal. It’s unexplainable.”

The Blazers are coming off a 49-33 season and were the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed. They were swept in four games by New Orleans during the first round of the playoffs.

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