Portland Trail Blazers All-Time Most Disappointing Acquisitions #4: LaRue Martin

With most players on our All-Disappointing Acquisition list I have to explain why the player made it, employing the nuances of the story to get the right balance.  LaRue Martin is different.  He pretty much sells himself.  

Here's all you need to know:

  • He was the #1 overall pick in the 1972 NBA draft
  • He averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds for his career
  • That career lasted four years, then he was out of the league.  Portland traded him in 1976 to Seattle for "future considerations" (which apparently still haven't happen yet, though we're well into the future now) and he never played for the Sonics.

Just for sake of comparison, Kwame Brown is widely considered the worst #1 overall pick of the modern era.  Brown has averaged 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds and is still playing after 10 years in the league.  Thus LaRue Martin is on the short list for worst #1 picks of all time.  That pretty much guaranteed he'd make ours.

The more interesting debate will probably be why I put LaRue fourth instead of just tossing him into the top slot and calling it a day.  In a huge role reversal, today I'll find myself explaining why a disappointing guy actually wasn't that bad. 

First and foremost, Martin wasn't really the Blazers' guy.  Like the rest of the civilized world they wanted Bob McAdoo out of North Carolina that year.  McAdoo--by far the superior player with career averages of 22 and 9 over 14 seasons played--wasn't keen on coming to Portland.  He and the Blazers couldn't agree on contract terms.  Still needing a big man the Blazers went with the next best thing:  Martin.  He had shown favorably against Bill Walton in college.  I suppose they figured that was enough.

Second, who else really came out of that draft besides McAdoo?  Julius Erving was technically drafted 12th by the Milwaukee Bucks but he joined the ABA.  If the good Doctor wasn't sanguine about heading to Milwaukee he wouldn't have been jazzed about Portland either.  Paul Westphal went 10th to Boston and ended up averaging 20 a game for several seasons as their shooting guard.  But the Blazers already had Paul Westphal, except his name was Geoff Petrie.  Don't be fooled by Ralph Simpson at #11 either.  It's not the guy you think it is.  He was was only 6'5" tall and played forward.  (And you wouldn't have really wanted that other Ralph anyway.)  In short, while the correct answer to "Who should the Blazers have taken instead?" is technically "ANYONE!!!" in actuality the loss wasn't that bad.  If they couldn't get McAdoo the draft was a wash out.

Third, it's hard to argue this move significantly undermined the future of the team when Bill Walton would be drafted two years later and lead the team to a title in 1976-77.

Fourth, raise your hand if you're really, really disappointed the Blazers took LaRue Martin #1 overall in '72, if it still eats at you, if you still suffer over it.  The only guy with his hand up right now is LaRue Martin.  He had to live with those expectations and the behind-the-back whispers and their accompanying emotions.  Everyone else got over it as soon as Walton came. 

Besides, the guy left a rallying call that's also the name of one of our dearest and most respected members at Blazersedge.  Who could knock him after that?

Because Bob McAdoo's agent and Portland ownership couldn't see eye to eye in 1972 and because leaving him off would make a mockery of the exercise, LaRue Martin earns the #4 spot in our Most Disappointing Blazer Acquisitions list.

Agree or disagree with LaRue's placement below.

Here's the rest of the list:  #5 Darius Miles #6 Greg Oden  #7 Martell Webster  #8 Sebastian Telfair  #9 Damon Stoudamire   #10 Derek Anderson  #11 Walter Davis   #12 Rudy Fernandez  #13 James Robinson  #14 Scottie Pippen   #15 Walter Berry

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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