Today marks the last SBNation-NBA league-wide discussion topic of the summer. That's two pieces of good news bundled into one. First, it means training camp is near! Second, today's topic involves mooning over a classic Trail Blazers favorite.
We test-drove this subject at Blazer's Edge earlier in the summer and it was a crowd favorite (perhaps prompting its selection as today's league-wide topic). The question: if you could bring back one former Trail Blazer, adding them to the current squad, who would you pick?
Most of this summer's questions have been pretty easy for me to answer, but I'm of several minds on this one.
The obvious knee-jerk response is Clyde Drexler. He's the greatest player in franchise history. He traded on size, strength, and agility...characteristics which translate well between eras. He could step into today's game and still dominate. Raise your hand if you wouldn't want to see Clyde throwing down dunks in the backcourt alongside Damian Lillard. How about adding a 25-27 ppg scorer to Portland's lineup? Nowadays if a Blazer scores 27 in a game we say he had an amazing night. Clyde averaged that for two...seasons...straight. Hey basketball gods, can we just make this happen now? Please? You owe us for the Oden thing. Just sayin'.
That said, I'm not fond of obvious answers. They make me feel like I'm not earning my paycheck. Besides, there are three reasons to not favor Clyde...
1. He wasn't a great three-point shooter compared to modern guards, let alone compared to his potential 2013-14 teammates. But ask me if I care. Let everybody else shoot threes to spread the floor for Drexler so he can THROW DOWN MASSIVE DUNKS ON YOU WHILE YOU CRINGE!
2. The Blazers' biggest need right now is center, not shooting guard. Clyde would be a massive upgrade over any other shooting guard in franchise history, but a franchise-level center might gain the current Blazers more.
3. Drexler averaged plenty of assists, but realistically he's going to take the ball out of the hands of Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Again, I'd love to see this. I think the three of them could form an imposing unit. But Portland's two current stars would have to compromise to bring Drexler into the offense fully.
That's why, just for fun, I'm going to go with another answer. The Blazers are screaming for that center upgrade, so let's give it to them.
The two clear candidates in the middle are Bill Walton and Arvydas Sabonis. Walton had more talent during his NBA years. He was the League MVP in 1977-78, Finals MVP in '77, and a World Champion. At his peak he averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists, all of which blow Sabonis out of the water. But Bill played only 1.5 healthy seasons for the Blazers. Plus his body was skinny by today's standards. His prodigious and varied offensive game would allow him to prosper today but defense and rebounding could be issues.
I want a guy who's going to play longer and stronger, so I'm going with the aging Sabonis. (If you'd give me a young Sabonis I'd go for it in a heartbeat, but that never happened for the Blazers.) He's 7'3, 280 lbs, with passing ability and an accurate shot out to the three-point arc. Mobility will be an issue but I'm going to let him camp in the lane on defense, eating space and rebounds...both of which he does with excellence. I don't care if he's trailing way behind in the fast break. He can outlet to speedier players and provide a boost in the halfcourt if the quick shot doesn't develop. The guy can play in the low post, high post, or just face up outside. He can pass with one hand, behind the back, through the legs, whatever you need. As soon as Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews cut into the lane from the wing they'd find the ball dangling above the rim for an alley-oop finish. Sag off of him to cover cutters and he hits the three. Commit your center to help on a Lillard drive and Sabonis will hit the face-up mid-range shot. Send somebody to stop that and he'll hit the man you just left open for the jumper.
OK, I have to stop now. I went into a trance talking about Drexler and then Sabonis. Now I get to snap out of it and remember that this isn't going to happen. That makes me sad. It should. It really should.
I know we've discussed this before but if you have anything to add about Sabas, if you want to debate the Drexler-Walton-Sabonis choice, or if you want to add a candidate of your own go ahead and fill up the comment section.