Deandre Ayton: Potential game-changer for the Portland Trail Blazers?

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

The offseason hasn’t even kicked off yet and the NBA trade rumors are swirling. One name that has recently surfaced is Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon stated that the Suns plan to “aggressively explore” an Ayton trade, and Ayton “would be excited about a fresh start with another franchise,” as reported by Bleacher Report.

The Portland Trail Blazers, in need of rebounding, inside scoring, interior defense, and more star power, could be an ideal landing spot for Ayton – but would he be a good fit on the Blazers’ roster alongside players like Damian Lillard, Shaedon Sharpe, and Jerami Grant?

The potential impact of Deandre Ayton on the Blazers

One of the most glaring weaknesses for the Trail Blazers has been their lack of rebounding and interior presence. Ayton’s impressive averages of 10 rebounds per game and 18 points per game last season immediately address these deficiencies.

His career 109 defensive rating (DRtg) doesn’t hurt either. His ability to clean the glass and score efficiently in the paint would provide the Blazers with a dominant inside presence they have sorely lacked.

The presence of Ayton in the paint would create numerous opportunities for the Blazers perimeter players. Lillard, known for his lethal outside shooting and scoring ability, would benefit from Ayton’s interior game.

Ayton’s gravity in the paint would draw attention from opposing defenses, potentially opening up more space for Lillard to operate on the perimeter and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Similarly, Sharpe, a promising young shooting guard, and Grant, a versatile forward, would thrive alongside Ayton. The former No. 1 overall pick’s inside scoring threat would command double teams, which would create open looks for Sharpe and Grant on the perimeter. Both players possess the shooting prowess to take advantage of these opportunities, providing the Blazers with an improved outside shooting game.

Potential trade packages

Acquiring a player of Ayton’s caliber would inevitably require a substantial trade package. There is a reason Anfernee Simons wasn’t mentioned above. His untapped potential and contract make him a likely inclusion in a trade for Ayton.

A trade package likely includes Simons, Nassir Little, the 2023 first-round pick from the Knicks (23rd overall), and a depth piece, such as Trendon Watford or Keon Johnson. While it would be a considerable haul, the Blazers would be gaining a foundational piece in Ayton, whose skill set aligns perfectly with their needs.

Keep in mind, Ayton is just 24 years old and a former first-overall pick.

A three-way trade involving the Suns, Blazers, and another team could also be an option. The Suns are rumored to want to part ways with Chris Paul this offseason as well. Sending Jusuf Nurkic to Phoenix or another team could help facilitate such a trade, potentially bringing back a much-needed small forward to the Blazers.

Teams like the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, or one of the Los Angeles franchises could get involved, creating a complex but intriguing trade scenario.

Projected Portland starting lineup with Ayton

With Ayton on the roster, the Trail Blazers’ starting five would feature Lillard, Matisse Thybulle/Sharpe, Cam Reddish (or a new player), Grant, and Ayton. This lineup boasts a potent mix of scoring, defense, and versatility. The addition of Ayton’s inside presence would elevate the team’s overall rebounding and defensive capabilities while also providing a reliable scoring option in the paint.

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Ayton could be a game-changer for the Blazers, providing them with the rebounding, inside scoring, and interior defense they desperately need. His presence would open up the outside game for Lillard, Sharpe, and Grant, giving the team a more balanced offensive attack.

While acquiring Ayton would require a significant trade package, the potential benefits outweigh the costs. The Blazers should seriously consider exploring a trade for Ayton to strengthen their roster and increase their chances of contending in a competitive Western Conference.