C: Deandre Ayton
Ayton was a key piece of the Damian Lillard return, and the Blazers targeted the former number-one overall pick. He could be a game-changer in Portland, but the Blazers have to maximize his skill set. Ayton helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals in 2021, and it is easy to forget that he was locked in on both ends of the floor. Portland needs him to protect the rim and control the paint.
The 6’11 big man wants offensive touches, and the Blazers should provide them. He can be a pick-and-roll partner for Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe. Portland should let him explore his mid-range and post-up games as they rebuild. Ayton has to prove he does not have those skills before settling him into his optimal role.
Deandre Ayton has All-Star potential, and the Portland Trail Blazers could legitimately have five stars on their roster in five years. Three would have to come via internal growth with some lottery luck and star chasing mixed in. This would be an expensive team, and the ownership situation in Rip City remains up in the air. If a billionaire comes in, the Blazers could be among the highest spenders in the league.
There should be plenty of excitement in Portland. Yes, Damian Lillard is gone, but there is young talent on the roster and plenty of capital to improve. The Trail Blazers could be in title contention in five years if things break right.