3 Pressing questions Blazers need to answer down the stretch of the regular season

What does Portland still need to learn about certain players and coaches?

Deandre Ayton (left), Chauncey Billups; Portland Trail Blazers
Deandre Ayton (left), Chauncey Billups; Portland Trail Blazers / Chris Coduto/GettyImages
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Is Deandre Ayton the Blazers' center of the future?

It's been a tale of two seasons for Portland's new big man. Or perhaps, more accurately, a tale of most of the season and the last month. He's been in and out of the lineup with nagging injuries and when he has played, he's putting up some of the worst numbers of his NBA career.

In the eight games he's appeared in since Feb. 10, though, he's been a completely different player. In fact, he may be Portland's best player at the moment.

During that span (he still missed six more games), Ayton is averaging 19.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.2 stocks (steals plus blocks). Across a full season, those would all be career highs for the 25-year-old.

Billups called Ayton a top-five center before the season. He's paid like one, but he's never lived up to the immense talent that made him the No. 1 pick in 2018. The 7-footer has size, athleticism, agility, speed and an offensive tool kit that most players his size don't. To this point in his career, though, he's never become the dominant big man he is on paper.

Will the Blazers get this current version of Ayton or the one who has struggled for most of the season? What he does over the final month will go a long way in helping the front office decide if the center position is still a need or if it belongs to Ayton moving forward.