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Evaluating Deandre Ayton early on in the 2023 season

Nov 3, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Deandre Ayton (2) is fouled by Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Desmond Bane (22, right) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

A month has passed since the Phoenix Suns sent Deandre Ayton over to the Portland Trail Blazers in part of a massive three-team deal that included Damian Lillard going to the Milwaukee Bucks.

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In return for sending Ayton to the Trail Blazers, the Phoenix Suns received center Jusuf Nurkić, guard Grayson Allen, forward Nassir Little, and guard Keon Johnson.

But how has this trade played out in the early stages of the NBA season, two weeks in?

Deandre Ayton’s scoring has dipped; he is currently averaging just over 10 points per game, a notable drop from his 2022 average of over 18 points per game.

However, Ayton has embraced a dominant role in the paint, currently leading the league with an average of over 13 rebounds per game.

His career-high rebounding average was in 2019, when he averaged 11.1 rebounds per game.

It is also worth mentioning that Ayton has recorded at least 10 rebounds in four consecutive games, during which the Blazers have secured a 3-1 record.

This remarkable presence near the basket has catapulted Portland into the top 10 in rebounds, marking a significant improvement compared to last season, when they ranked third to last in the NBA.

On the other hand, the Suns’ new center, Jusuf Nurkić, is averaging 8.3 rebounds and 9.1 points per game, both of which are considerably lower than his 2022 stats.

Of course, with only seven games played in the NBA season, it’s too early to make a definitive judgment about whether the Suns regret letting Ayton go. However, at this stage, Deandre Ayton seems to have gained the upper hand and is thriving in his new role in Portland.

These early insights provide a glimpse into the impact of the trade, but it will be interesting to see how both players and teams continue to evolve as the season unfolds.

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