The Portland Trail Blazers missed the 2022 NBA playoffs when the front office imploded the team prior to the trade deadline. The Trail Blazers will try to rebuild around superstar Damian Lillard, who indicated he’d like to join forces with Deandre Ayton, John Collins, and/or OG Anunoby.
Lillard missed 53 games after recovering from core stomach surgery, but without their All-Star, the Trail Blazers finished 13th in the Western Conference with a 27-55 record under first-year head coach Chauncey Billups.
Prior to the trade deadline, the Trail Blazers sent CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans, where he helped them qualify for the Play-In Tournament. The Trail Blazers also sent Norman Powell to the Los Angeles Clippers.
With Lillard as their anchor, the Trail Blazers are trying to find complimentary players like Collins, Ayton, or Anunoby. In the last few days, Portland has been buzzing with three potential new frontline players that Lillard would like to add to the roster.
Deandre Ayton (C, Phoenix Suns)
The Phoenix Suns crushed everyone in their path during the regular season amassing a 64-18 record. They secured the #1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, but Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks upset the Suns in the conference semifinals. Ayton, the Suns starting center, was benched during an embarrassing blowout in Game 7. Head coach Monty Williams never elaborated on what went down aside from saying it was an internal issue.
The Suns balked at giving Ayton a contract extension, and it looks like they might let him walk in free agency, unless they can work out a sign and trade with an interested team like the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, or Portland Trail Blazers.
In 58 games last season, Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. His PER rating of 21.99 ranked him #16 overall. Lillard indicated he liked Ayton, but will the Trail Blazers be willing to pay him a max contract?
OG Anunoby (SF, Toronto Raptors)
Here at OG, we love OG Anunoby as one of our favorite NBA players. The London-born Anunoby was a rising star with the Toronto Raptors the last couple of seasons. He lost some of his luster this season after the Raptors drafted Scottie Barnes — who also plays small forward and won the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year
In his fifth season with the Raptors, Anunoby averaged a career-high 17.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. However, he saw his role diminish while Barnes got more responsibility later in the season and during the playoffs.
Word got out that Anunoby was unhappy with his role and murky future. The Raptors denied any rumors about potentially trading Anunoby, especially to the Trail Blazers. He has three years remaining on a four-year $72 million contract extension he signed last year.
Weirdly enough, Anunoby and Ayton were mentioned together in a potential sign-and-trade with the Suns and Raptors. The Raptors would finally get a center they desperately need with Ayton. But, Anunoby would have to battle fellow small forwards Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson for playing time.
John Collins (PF, Atlanta Hawks)
Collins has not been happy with his role with the Atlanta Hawks, especially during the accension of Trae Young. Over the last couple of seasons Collins made necessary sacrifices for to help out the team. However, he was not thrilled with how he’s utilized in the offense. Collins saw his scoring average decrease in the last two seasons after he posted a career-best 21.6 ppg in 2019-20.
Collins asked for the Hawks to trade him, but they were unable to find a suitable partner because the Hawks were asking for too much in return. He averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 54 games this season, but missed time with a knuckle injury on his shooting hand while battling a painful case of plantar fasciitis.
There’s a good chance the Hawks and Collins part ways in the offseason through a trade. He’s been mentioned in trade rumors with the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gobert, but the Portland Trail Blazers also like Collins.
Collins is in the second season of a five-year deal worth $125 million, when he re-signed with the Hawks last year.
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