The Portland Trail Blazers had a tough week of games. They went 0-4, including losses to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers in In-Season Tournament games that eliminated them from moving on to the single-elimination stage. However, despite the outcomes, there were still some positives to be seen in the play of some Blazers during this week. This week’s Blazer of the week is Deandre Ayton.
Ayton recorded two double-doubles this week, including a season-high 22 points in the game against the Jazz. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this week on an efficient 54.2 percent shooting from the field. He was one of the lone bright spots for the Blazers in their blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder to close out the week.
There have been some concerns with Ayton so far this season. His turnover numbers are high for a center that does not spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands, he averaged 2.5 turnovers per game this week. He also has struggled to get to the free throw line with any consistency despite taking almost every shot from inside the paint. However, the offensive rebounding and deterrence around the rim on defense make him a valuable piece for the Blazers.
Of the 33 rebounds that Ayton recorded this week, 16 of them came on the offensive glass. His ability to extend positions and create opportunities for second chance points for the Blazers offense has helped Portland become the fifth ranked team in the NBA in second chance points per game so far this season.
He also serves as an imposing force around the rim on defense. While he is not an elite shot blocker, he recorded just one block in his four games this week, his ability to challenge shots close to the basket creates easy rebounds and transition opportunities for his teammates.
Ayton has improved his play as the season has gone on for the Blazers and has become more comfortable finding his shots in the flow of the offense. His mid-range jumpers from the free throw line and the elbow serve almost serve as a secret weapon for him on offense. Many times defenders will drop down when they see Ayton approach that range. However, Ayton has shot 60 percent from 15-19 feet away from the basket so far this season. Being able to extend his range outside of the paint, even in limited attempts per game, has given another element to Ayton’s offensive game.
An honorable mention for the week is Jabari Walker.
Walker averaged 11.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this week while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three point range. Walker has played with a lot of energy this season, and his offensive game has started to benefit in a big way. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He was good as a spot up shooter from deep in the matchups against the Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers. His rebounding has been very strong and is a facet of his game that has improved over the course of this season.
Which Blazer impressed you the most this week? Let us know in the comments.