While we're all waiting for Brandon Roy's contract to get done and David Lee to sign a one-year qualifying offer with the Knicks so he can get traded mid-season, I thought we'd try a riff on a familiar theme. We're going to choose our best FITTING Blazer team ever.
Right away let's describe what this exercise is NOT about. It's not about picking the best five Blazers ever regardless of position or playing style. It's not about picking the best Blazer at each position either. In fact I'm asking you specifically to avoid making a team filled with multiple-time All-Stars from Portland's history. Been there, done that, know what the results will be.
Instead I'm asking you to fit together a team of Blazers to play a style of your choosing...a style that's going to produce wins. We're only doing the starting lineup. We're only half asking how talented they are. The rest is how well they fit together with each other in the playing style you chose.
In this exercise you can't move players outside of the position they played for the majority of their time with the Blazers. No choosing Brandon Roy or Clyde Drexler as your small forward. No making Arvydas Sabonis and Greg Oden power forwards either. Obviously it's a "best of" team so you're going to have talented players on it, but try to pick just one or two of the huge, huge names and fit the rest of the team around them and their playing style. If you come up with five All-NBA guys we're going to look at you funny. Don't add even one guy to your five just because he's talented if he doesn't really fit.
Explain your focus and intent in building your team then give us the players and why they match.
Because I think there's such a wide variety of interesting possibilities here I'm going to give my starting five without fear that I'm stealing one of the only legitimate answers. See my squad after the jump.
I've decided I want to build a team that runs. I need players who are good in transition but I also need to be able to defend, rebound, and get the ball out in order to do that. I want to have enough of a back-up plan in the halfcourt offense that I'm not hung out to try on the possessions we can't run but basically pushing tempo and easy buckets are my thing.
The most obvious choice and the guy around whom I'm centering my team is Bill Walton. He's got everything I need. He can defend, he can rebound, he's the best outlet passer this team has ever seen, he can run, and he also has plenty of scoring ability in the halfcourt. He's my one-man insurance policy that this style is going to work.
My second huge-name guy has got to be Clyde Drexler. If you're going to run you have to bring the thunder. Walton starting the fast break and Clyde ending it would be nothing short of majestic. And again he can score in the halfcourt if needed.
I need a speedy, competent point guard to push the pace. For this I'm picking up one of Walton's teammates, Johnny Davis. He's lightning quick, he's athletic, and he's smart. He'll run with anybody on the team. (And this is what I mean by picking guys others might overlook because they're good and they fit your style to a "T" even if they're not usually considered among the best Blazers of all time individually.)
That just leaves the forwards. I'm a little worried about the defense and with Davis and Drexler in the backcourt I want some shooting range if I can get it. But I also need a guy who can blend in. That means I'm going to another semi-big name at power forward: Rasheed Wallace. Wallace defined his era, which means I'm nervous about violating my rule about just picking the best players. But you know what? I think you can make an argument for Rasheed as a great complementary player instead of an individual superstar in his own right. I figure Walton's got the rebounding down so I can live with ‘Sheed not grabbing as many. I love Wallace's defense. I like his offensive range. I like that he's unselfish, sees the floor, and was taught to pass. He'll keep the offense flowing instead of being a roadblock.
Small forward is the only position that remains. I really want Scottie Pippen here but he's such a big name (whether he was that big with the Blazers or not) that I fear I'm going to encourage mayhem if I select him. My next instinct is to go with Nicolas Batum because I like the skills he brings to this lineup (plus his athleticism and speed) and I don't need much offense. But I'm not going there either because many folks don't have a sense of nuance when reading these things. The next time I make a critical observation about Fernandez or Bayless I can just hear the chorus of "Well THIS guy picked Nicolas Batum for an all-time Blazer team so he's obviously a Batum-lover who's biased against the other young guys." Kiki Vandeweghe and Jerome Kersey get me into the same kind of trouble Pippen does. A motivated Darius Miles would be great but I want a guy who played right for more than three weeks and who's not going to get me booed off of the blog. Jeepers, that Wallace pick is really costing me now. It would have been so much easier if I could have just said Scottie and been done with it. (And yes, your last pick should be this tortuous if you're considering all of the factors at once and trying to find the one guy who fits them all.)
Basically I'm left with two guys. My first instinct is to go with Stacey Augmon. Plastic Man could bring some great defense and could run. But I'd like a little more rebounding support and a shade more scoring variety if I can sneak it in. For that reason I'm opting for a young Cliff Robinson, who in his early days legitimately played small forward. His offense wasn't that great then and he was a total ball hog, but nobody has to pass to him anyway. He did have a few moves and he makes our front line really tall. Nobody's going to care anymore if Clyde and Johnny let a couple guys slip by them.
So that's my running Blazer squad: Walton, Sheed, Cliffy, Drexler, and Davis. What's your style and who are your guys? The comment section is open.