Midway through the 1990-91 season the Portland Trail Blazers were lining up the best record in the league. Despite gaudy performances the ghosts of the 1990 playoffs still haunted the rafters of Memorial Coliseum. The Blazers had manhandled the Western Conference on their way to a Finals appearance against a deep, experienced, and tough Detroit Pistons team. The Pistons had turned the tables on the Blazers, mugging them in their own building to take a 4-1 series victory and the NBA crown.
In the aftermath of the series it became evident that the Blazers had lacked the scoring punch and poise necessary to threaten the champs. Danny Ainge had been acquired in the off-season and had helped the team win multiple games, but was it enough? Evidently Portland's brass decided not. They needed an insurance policy off the bench, a veteran who could score at the wing positions behind Clyde Drexler or Jerome Kersey in times of foul trouble or rest. On January 23rd, 1991 the Blazers entered into a three-team deal which sent popular young shooter Drazen Petrovic to the New Jersey Nets and brought in Walter Davis from the Denver Nuggets.
Davis' pedigree was beyond question. He had been a phenomenal scorer for the Phoenix Suns for years, accomplishing the exceedingly rare feat of scoring 20+ ppg without the aid of three-point shots or significant free throws. His offensive game was that good. He had twice averaged 56% shooting from the floor for an entire season as a perimeter player. He changed entire games by putting the ball through the twine. He dominated at 24. He dominated at 29. He was still scary at 32. But by the time the Blazers got hold of him he was 36. His knees were a mess and he moved like a mailbox in molasses. Instead of a subtly brilliant move to shore up an already-brilliant bench with leadership and scoring the Blazers got stuck with a lemon. Every time Davis took the floor Portland fans held their breath, wondering if this would be the moment. The fuse on the firecracker was lit! Wait for it... Wait for it... Wait...was that it? Should we re-light it? Maybe we should wait a minute more. Is it going to go off? I did see a little puff of smoke there. Just give it a second. Awwwwww....dang. Maybe that puff of smoke really was it. Dude, I totally paid $12 for that thing!
The cost was the extra syrup on the disappointment sundae, ultimately pushing Walter Davis onto this list. Petrovic was monumentally popular in Portland. He was approximately a century younger than Davis. Petrovic was traded because he couldn't defend. Neither could Davis. Petrovic was traded because he wasn't a good all-around player. Neither was Davis. Petrovic was traded because his experience couldn't help the Blazers win a title. Neither did Davis. Davis, the offensive wizard, shot over 44% for the Blazers. Petrovic shot over 52% for the Nets over that same time span. Drazen didn't get to go to the playoffs with the Nets. Since he shot below 40% during his Blazers post-season run, one could argue that Davis didn't show up for them either. Even worse Petrovic would later go on to average 20 per game for New Jersey. Portland waived Davis before the next season even started. This left Blazer fans doing facepalms before there was even an official name for it.
Walter Davis was a great player, superhuman at times. He just wasn't that for Portland. Because of that, and even more so because his name will always be associated with Portland losing one of its all-time favorite guys, Davis comes in at #11 on our most disappointing list.
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