Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons will miss the next four to six weeks after an MRI revealed that he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, the team announced on Friday. Simons will undergo surgery to address the issue in the coming days.
Simons sustained the injury during the Blazers’ season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, though exactly when is unclear. He was still in the game late in the fourth quarter, and didn’t check out for good until both teams emptied their bench in what was a 24-point game at the time. Simons finished that game with 18 points and four assists on 6 of 14 from the field.
The sixth-year guard is coming off a career-season in which he averaged 21.1 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 37.7% from 3-point land, and made good on the four-year, $100 million extension he signed in 2022. He was expected to take on even bigger role this season after Damian Lillard’s departure in a blockbuster trade, but that will now obviously have to wait.
Given the timeline, Simons is set to be out for at least 16 games, but will likely miss even more. While he probably wasn’t going win any major end-of-season awards, he may have been in the mix for Most Improved Player. In any case, it’s worth noting that he is the first player to be taken out of contention due to injury. Under the new rules, players must appear in 65 games to be eligible for major honors, and Simons will now not reach that mark.
In the short-term, the biggest ripple effect for the Blazers is that No. 3 overall pick, and future face of the franchise Scoot Henderson will have more opportunity and responsibility than anyone was expecting this early in his career. He already played 35 minutes in the season opener, so his actual playing time won’t increase, but he’ll have the ball in his hands more often and will need to be more aggressive looking for his own shot.
Looking further ahead, Simons lengthy absence likely ensures that the Blazers will have one of the worst records in the league this season. They were already crushed on opening night by the Clippers and will now be without their best shot creator for nearly 25% of the season. That might be for the best long-term, especially if they have some more lottery luck, but it could make this a long winter in the Pacific Northwest.