The outlook for the league is that the Blazers will see Ayton in line for one of the league’s top five centres
Deandre Ayton needs a fresh start, and the Portland Trail Blazers are hoping to be fertile ground for the former No. 1 overall pick, who was part of the big trade with Damian Lillard.
It’s almost as if he’s an afterthought, a footnote in a bigger story about Lillard’s loyalty and desire to go to Miami is being ignored, which paves the way for Milwaukee and Phoenix to show up and find a way to close this deal a little quietly before the start of training camp next week. .
Usually, when players are excluded from an opponent with an average of 18 points and 10 rebounds in an almost maximum deal, they are big events.
But given the drama between Lillard and Portland, which is sure to have even more twists and turns before it’s over, Ayton probably prefers to stay under all the attention.
Ayton’s relationship with the Phoenix Suns deteriorated over time for several reasons. Having to go into restricted free agency always seems to create a sense of injury – the deal disrupting the game, some would say – and having to pursue an offer from the Indiana Pacers last summer that was quickly voted down only delayed the inevitable, a trade with a different kind of team.
The Suns would need Ayton to be less than his talent, as a distant option behind Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. With the scars from previous situations under former coach Monty Williams, it was best for everyone involved to move on.
“Portland and Phoenix trading centers in bigger deal, Ayton for Jusuf Nurkić”. Ayton will play a prominent role in Portland’s offense, even if the franchise shifts things to the third-round draft pick, Scoot Henderson, and already employs Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe on defense.
Despite all his experience and winding road, Ayton is only 25 years old – still with a lot of potential, the blazers believe. They see him as a talented offensive player, who at the moment is able to consistently play basketball for a team in the basic mode. He did so as a steady force for the Suns on their way to the finals and the subsequent best 21-22 season in the league.
Assessing the value of the top centers in the league is a bit difficult. The best, Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid and Bam Adebayo are not available, so the transition to the next division showed a mixture of requests and returns on the market.
Utah got five first-round picks (four and one trade) for Rudy Gobert, an absurd return that was so wild that it did nothing to zero in on the market. Jarrett Allen was part of a big deal that sent him from Brooklyn to Cleveland as part of James Harden’s contract for 2021.
The asking price for a player like New Yorker Mitchell Robinson, sources told Yahoo Sports, are several first–round picks – probably a nonstarter for most clubs.
So for Portland, finding Ayton in the wreckage of this deal is more than just money, with his pedigree and the chance to start all over again three years after the restricted deal he signed. How else would this franchise get a player with this kind of production and potential? If this had happened in free agency, it would have happened when Lillard was begging for someone, anyone, to join him in the Pacific Northwest.
The outlook for the league is that the Blazers will see Ayton in line for one of the league’s top five centres and a valuable asset, especially at his age. Brook Lopez and Nikola Vučević might not agree on the top-five list, and Anthony Davis certainly would if he qualified as an anchor (he doesn’t).
Ayton could certainly play harder on both sides, be more assertive and probably be trained in his new environment. The things you can’t teach, he owns: touching the rim with both hands, a reliable 15-foot jumper and a great foul shooter for someone of his height (75 percent for his career).
Being in the same recruiting class as Luka Dončić and Trae Young will certainly create comparisons, even if we have seen for decades that the last centers are developing differently than other positions.
It happened when the center was the main position on the court – why shouldn’t it follow suit if the position, or at least the responsibility for points, was somewhat marginalized by the development of the game?
Blazers coach Chauncey Billups is familiar with recovery plans. He himself is one, albeit with a different path than Ayton. He was traded to Boston in the middle of his rookie season and a few more times before he found a home in Detroit about six years after the start of his career. He knows the value of stability.
Confidence is going to be high here, and considering that Lillard’s confidence in Portland triggered this domino effect of bringing Ayton to the Blazers, you would think that everyone is aware of what they are facing.
Fresh from that trip to the NBA finals in 2021 – a series and playoffs in which Ayton did well, if you remember he was not immediately rewarded with a long-awaited contract.
He insisted that he had no bitterness in the deal, but it seemed to continue, especially since the Suns imploded in the second round of the 2022 series against Dallas.
This situation was about to explode, and only Booker remains from this team. It would be a bit wild to call Ayton the culprit in this equation when it was clear that the entire unit had run its course – he was just the last big piece to be moved when it became clear that he did not fit into this iteration of the Suns.
Maybe it’s happier for the Blazers and Ayton, both sides are looking for warmth, trust and patience from each other for experiences of previous situations that can make anyone gun shy.
Ayton does not need the reset button so much as he needs a fresh look and a natural improvement of his own.