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The Blazers Welcome Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton

By Jeff Stinger

The other side of the Damian Lillard deal sees NBA Champion Jrue Holiday head out to Portland. He is joined by the Suns’ starting big man Deandre Ayton in the three-way deal. With the agreement ironed out, let’s take a closer look at what the Portland Trail Blazers have in their hands for the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season.

New Pieces for the Portland Trail Blazers

Jrue Holiday

Multiple sources imply that Portland intends to trade Holiday for additional assets. On the surface, getting back a two-time All-Star veteran point guard in a deal that included 2018 NBA Draft top pick Ayton seems like a good deal. But, Portland’s lineup doesn’t exactly demand another guard. Even after trading Lillard, the franchise needs to focus on developing younger guys like rookie Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, Andernee Simons, and Matisse Thybulle.

Holiday might fit into the Blazers’ plans if we look at the bigger picture. They remain +10,000 sleepers to win the next NBA Eastern Conference title. However, he is a solid trade piece. Several teams need a veteran point guard like him. The 33-year-old was a crucial component of the Bucks’ 2021 NBA title run after all.

The former Pelican and five-time all-defensive team player averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 assists last season while shooting 47.9% from the field. He was pretty competent from downtown and shot 38.4% from deep. What the Blazers will seek in exchange for him will depend on what the market can offer.

The +10,000 2024 NBA Championship winners are likely to prioritize additional draft picks. The three-team deal Lillard trade introduced just one first-round pick in 2029 and a pair of pick swaps in 2028 and 2030. This leaves a gaping hole at the forward position next to Jerami Grant, which was filled by Nassir Little in the Ayton trade package that also involved big man Jusuf Nurkic.

READ MORE: Jrue Holiday Traded to the Boston Celtics

Deandre Ayton

Meanwhile, +580 2024 NBA Champions Phoenix Suns officially move on from Ayton. He was pivotal in helping the franchise reach new heights in the last few years, such as the 2021 NBA Finals and a stellar 64-win regular-season record in 2022. Despite that, he never truly lived up to expectations and was oftentimes questioned for his efforts. Ayton was made a restricted free agent last summer and pushed Phoenix to match a mega deal from the Indiana Pacers to stay put.

With Monty Williams out of the picture, Ayton was one of the first few names on the chopping block. New head coach Frank Vogel was expected to maximize his talents. But for all that, the organization decided to part ways with him despite putting up fair numbers in 2022-23. The Arizona product logged another double-double season of 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, but struggled during their postseason run.

We started to see some friction between Ayton and the Suns in the recent playoffs. The big man’s low point was when he averaged just 11 points and eight rebounds on 58% shooting during the Western Conference Semifinals versus the Nuggets. It didn’t take long for the tension to rise between the two. Actions suggested that the postseason exit could signal a fresh start for Ayton.

True enough, the 25-year-old eventually opens a new chapter with the Trail Blazers. The double-double machine still has untapped potential on the offensive and defensive sides of his game. The +330 NBA Western Conference favorites saw an opportunity to trade him to multiple rotation pieces and eliminated a ticking time bomb in the process.

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READ MORE: Blockbuster Trade Sends Damian Lillard to the Bucks