HomeNewsDeandre Ayton’s NBA future in question

Deandre Ayton’s NBA future in question

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The NBA is one of the fastest-changing institutions in the entire world. The landscape of the league can completely flip in the blink of an eye. Superstars can change teams, organizations can swap out their entire supporting casts, or an entire squad’s championship hopes can be dashed due to a season-ending injury to one of their core pieces.

Just as an entire team’s outlook can change overnight due to extraneous circumstances, so can the perception around a specific player. An athlete in the NBA can go from a future franchise cornerstone to a potential All-Star, then to a promising starter, and even to a bust within a few years depending on how the first chunk of their career goes.

This NBA season, there have been numerous examples of how the perception around a team or player can significantly shift in a short period of time. One of the best instances of both revolves around the trade that sent All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Not only did that trade pair two members of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team together, it also sent a former number one overall pick to a new team in Deandre Ayton.

Deandre Ayton’s iffy early development

Ayton had struggled to live up to his draft position in the first five seasons of his career. It didn’t help that his draft class in 2018 happened to feature two surefire future Hall-of-Famers in Trae Young and Luka Doncic, both of whom were selected shortly after Ayton.

While he was never able to justify his selection over Doncic, Ayton did enough in his first few seasons to earn a max contract extension with the Phoenix Suns. He didn’t develop into a bona fide superstar or give fans the impression that he’d undoubtedly develop into one someday, but the organization was at least comfortable enough to hand him a max contract.

After all, Ayton did play a large part in Phoenix’s Finals run before they ultimately fell short against the Milwaukee Bucks. In his time with the Suns, he flashed dominance on offense, particularly with his soft touch finishes and silky midrange game, and showed signs that he could be a respectable defensive anchor. In the 2020-2021 campaign, he willingly accepted a smaller role on offense in order to maximize his team’s title chances. In return for his sacrifice, he was rewarded with a Finals appearance and a max contract.

After that year, though, Ayton’s production began to decline and rumors sprung up about his discontent with his role and his team. It was heavily suggested that Ayton and former Suns Head Coach Monty Williams had discourse over his usage during Williams’s tenure.

The beginning of Deandre Ayton’s decline

Towards the end of Ayton’s time with the Suns, it became an inevitability that he’d be leaving the team. The only questions remaining were when and where his next home would be. The max extension he signed with Phoenix suddenly became a burden to both him and the Suns, as they tried to find a team that would be willing to take on his large contract in hopes of reviving his development.

For a while, it seemed like there were no takers, but then, Damian Lillard demanded a trade away from the Trail Blazers. With their backs against the wall, Portland was forced to find an acceptable deal for one of the greatest offensive players of all time. In their decision-making process, they decided that taking a chance on Aytomn was worth the risk.

So far, despite playing for a rebuilding team without a true superstar to answer to, Ayton is having the worst statistical season of his life. The advanced stats haven’t been any more encouraging for him either, as BBall-Index currently has Ayton ranking worse than players like Mason Plumlee, Drew Eubanks, and Thomas Bryant in O-LEBRON and D-LEBRON.

In Portland, Ayton has struggled to establish himself as a reliable starter, let alone a franchise cornerstone or max player, despite his insistence on being treated as such. It’s tough to admit defeat so harshly, especially in a deal that already saw them losing their franchise’s greatest player, but the Blazers will have to face a daunting reality soon with Deandre Ayton.

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