3 Trail Blazers who earned untouchable status, 2 who should be cut loose this summer

A trio of players proved they belong in Portland for the long haul. Two more, not so much.
Deandre Ayton (left), Portland Trail Blazers
Deandre Ayton (left), Portland Trail Blazers / Soobum Im/GettyImages
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Deandre Ayton

Ayton was Cronin's prized acquisition in the trade that sent away franchise icon Damian Lillard. The 7-footer has always possessed the physical attributes needed to be a dominant center in the NBA; he just never put them to use consistently. That was true during his time with the Phoenix Suns and continued during the first half of his debut season in Portland.

Ayton was underwhelming at best through the first three-plus months of the year. The Bahamian missed 17 games and averaged career lows in both scoring and rebounding.

Then something flipped, and post-all-star-break, Ayton has been one of the best big men in the league. Among all centers who have played at least 15 games since then, the 25-year-old is fifth in scoring (23.1 ppg) and rebounding (13.3) and tops in field-goal percentage (59.3 percent) among any player in that group taking at least 12 shots per game.

Ayton is playing like a dominant franchise center. More importantly, he's doing it night in and night out.