The Portland Trail Blazers are betting on salvaging Deandre Ayton’s career.
The Damian Lillard trade saga is finally over. In the end, the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t do Lillard dirty, but they also didn’t cave in by sending him to the Miami Heat. Instead, the Blazers found a deal that made both sides happy.
The Blazers held their ground and weren’t forced into a trade with the Miami Heat and Lillard gets to play for a strong contender, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the Eastern Conference. After a summer of speculation and unknown, it was a win-win ending for both sides.
The piece that may have brought it all together is Deandre Ayton. If the Blazers are going to look back at this trade as a “win,” one of two things needs to happen. Either the draft pick compensation that they got in this deal needs to be amazing or Ayton needs to find a career resurgence.
I have a hard time believing that a Bucks pick (when Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely still on the roster) is going to be all that bad, and the same could be said for whatever contender ends up trading for Jrue Holiday.
That’s why the Ayton element becomes all the more important. The former No. 1 overall pick is coming off a season in which he averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game on 59 percent shooting from the field. However, he was downright unplayable at times during his last two postseason runs with the Suns.
It was so bad that the perception of Ayton has changed drastically around the league in the last two seasons. During this past postseason, Ayton averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the field.
Deandre Ayton might’ve needed a change of scenery
The good news for the Blazers is that at just 25 years old, it’s hard to imagine that Ayton has already played the best basketball of his career.
With the way his career was trending in Phoenix, it was clear that Ayton needed a change of scenery. The big question is whether the Blazers will end up being the right spot for Ayton in the long run. But with the young talent that Portland already has in place, there’s a very real scenario where the Blazers are exactly what Ayton needed to rejuvenate his career.
Time will tell if Portland’s return for Lillard will age brilliantly or poorly. One thing is sure; for better or worse, Ayton will now forever be linked to Lillard in Blazers history.