The latest Portland Trail Blazers news for Feb. 12, including unsurprising Deandre Ayton rumors, another backcourt injury and the somewhat shocking reason Joe Cronin may have kept Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant at the trade deadline.
Deandre Ayton's had problems since arriving in Portland
Deandre Ayton was supposed to be the Trail Blazers' headliner in the Damian Lillard trade. He came from Phoenix as a 25-year-old center with every athletic trait you'd want in a big man: he's big, fast, skilled and nimble.
At least so far, though, it's been Toumani Camara who's been the best on-court asset Portland got from Phoenix, and now Ayton is becoming the headliner for the wrong reasons.
Per Jason Quick of The Athletic (subscription required), the Blazers' big man's first few months in Portland, "were defined by tardiness and tantrums." Quick even made a dreaded Hassan Whiteside comparison, referencing "the former Blazers’ center whose statistics looked nice, but had little to no impact on a game."
Ayton was acquired to be Portland's franchise center. His play has improved in recent weeks, but Quick's right, it has been hollow, or dare we say Whiteside-ish. And unfortunately, that's been a trend for the former Suns' big man, who averaged a double-double in Phoenix but never made a true impact and had a fight with then-head coach Monty Williams on the sidelines during a playoff game.
Here's to hoping Ayton turns things around, but there's already five-plus seasons of evidence saying this is just who he is.
Malcolm Brogdon expected out for at least two weeks
Shaedon Sharpe could already miss the rest of the season and now fellow backcourt mate Malcolm Brogdon is scheduled to miss at least two weeks with elbow tendinitis.
It would presumably be good news that the all-star break is coming on Feb. 18 because that would mean Brogdon would miss fewer games, but that's not a return date; the team said it would only reassess the injury at that point.
It's nothing new for head coach Chauncey Billups, though, who's dealt with injuries to one or multiple guards for just about the entire season.
Trail Blazers reportedly hoping to make a playoff run in 2024-25
In a controversial decision(s), Portland General Manager Joe Cronin decided to hold onto Brogdon and fellow veteran Jerami Grant at the 2024 NBA trade deadline rather than deal them for future assets.
There may have been a surprising impetus behind those decisions, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst:
"I actually think the Blazers are hoping, dare say, for a Rockets-like rebound, and I think they are hoping that next year they are competing for the playoffs. I think that’s one of the reasons why you didn’t see Jerami Grant or Malcolm Brogdon (traded). Jerami Grant’s name wasn’t out there for an iota, that I heard, and Brogdon’s name never got serious."- ESPN's Brian Windhorst
Expecting a team that's 15-37 on Feb. 12 to make a playoff push the following season seems ludicrous. Peeling back the onion, though, the Blazers have been better since a disastrous road trip in January and they've been fairly competitive this season when they've had a fully healthy roster.
Is it unlikely Portland will make a run at the 10 seed and a berth in the play-in tournament next year? Yes. Is it completely ridiculous? Not necessarily if Anfernee Simons, Grant, Brogdon, Ayton, et al are healthy for most of the season and there's some improvement from young players like Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, Jabari Walker and Camara.