The time has come!
A quintet of General Managers--staff writers all--have spent the week drafting 8-man rosters from a pool of every Trail Blazer player ever. They've snarled at each other, snatched players from each other's jaws, and occasionally admitted that somebody else made a good pick...maybe That's all done now. No more Mr. Nice Guys. Today Chris, Timmay, Dane, Sam, and Sagar go head-to-head for your votes and your love. You're going to determine who drafted the Best All-Time Blazer Great roster.
We'll present each team, then let the GM's explain their coaching hire and make an argument for why you should love their squad.
PG--Jarrett Jack, Greg Anthony SG--Clyde Drexler, Steve Smith
SF--Nicolas Batum PF--Rasheed Wallace, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Coaching Hire: I think most people will say Jack Ramsay, so for the sake of discussion, I like what current coach Terry Stotts could do with my lineup. With the kind of ball-movement in Stotts' flow offense, imagine the shots that could come from the penetration of Drexler and the outside shooting of Anthony, Smith, Batum and Wallace around the perimeter. How about the pick-and-pops and pick-and-rolls with Wallace? I think with these kinds of scoring threats at his disposal, Stotts would be capable of getting plenty of points on the board.
This is an eight-man roster, perfect for a Stotts playing rotation. There are three reliable, veteran options off the bench, so he wouldn't have to worry about the back-up limitations he currently has. Stotts also seems to have solid relationships with his players, which is definitely good for team chemistry, and he seems to get along well with the front office and the media.
GM Press Conference: Overall, I have to say I like the versatility, toughness and intangibles of my roster. I also think the overall health of a particular roster is paramount to continued success. Look at the 2013-14 Blazers squad, for example. Because the starting five was able to stay on the court together for virtually the entire season, they had a familiarity and chemistry with each other that allowed them to operate as efficiently as possible while surprising everyone with a 54-win season and a trip to the second round of the playoffs. That doesn't happen without the good fortunes in the health department, and I set myself up pretty well for that by avoiding players with serious injury concerns while in Portland; Of all my players, only Abdur-Rahim could be considered an injury risk.
My team is obviously formed around Clyde Drexler, arguably the most prolific scorer in Blazers history. He leads the charge, operates with the ball in his hands often and sets the tone for the team. Drexler's penetration, scoring and passing abilities put opposing teams in a difficult position defensively -- do they collapse and/or double to stop his interior scoring, allowing for kick-outs to long-range catch-and-shoot guys like Nicolas Batum, Steve Smith, Greg Anthony, Rasheed Wallace and Jarrett Jack? I think pressure could be put on other teams pretty consistently from all areas of the floor with my roster construction, a balanced attack that can play to its strengths and the defense's weaknesses. The pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pop opportunities look pretty good with bigs like Wallace and Shareef-Abdur-Rahim.
Drexler and Batum are good rebounders for their positions and with a focused Wallace, could be a force on the boards with Davis down low and Abdur-Rahim at power forward off the bench. They might give up a bit of size to teams with huge centers, but this unit has the length to be competitive on the glass against anyone.
Defensively, I like what I have assembled. Drexler creates a lot of steals and can lead the fast break and finish it, with Batum and Wallace capable of getting out and running. Jack brings size and toughness from the point guard position, Batum has his length and ability to guard multiple positions, which could be used for cross-matching if an opposing team has a scoring threat in the backcourt. Wallace can guard a stretch-four or body up on defense in the low post, while Davis is an interior presence. This roster has plenty of guys willing to deliver hard fouls while playing physical defense.
I love the idea of letting Wallace be a secondary option on offense with Drexler on the floor, while also capable of putting the team on his back for stretches. If not, plenty of other guys are capable of stepping up at any given time -- Batum, Smith and Abdur-Rahim could also get hot, while I see Jack and Davis being more opportunistic scorers.
There are also ways to put together effective non-conventional lineups. Smith could play small forward, Batum power forward and Wallace center in a stretch lineup. Anthony and Smith could play together for the ultimate outside shooting backcourt. I like an Abdur-Rahim/Wallace frontcourt pairing for the inside-outside scoring that would be hard for opposing teams to employ a double-team against.
I like the chemistry of this team, with Drexler the clear alpha-dog and team leader. Anthony and Smith bring great veteran presences, helping to balance out Wallace's unbridled passion and volatility. Jack and Davis are the lunch-pail, blue-collar guys. In a close game down the stretch, there are multiple players capable of finishing the game and taking the final shot, allowing them to exploit specific beneficial match-ups as necessary.
Considering the plethora of scoring options this offense has, the versatility and physicality on defense, the team-wide contributions on the boards and the array of capable outside shooters throughout the roster, I think my team could compete with anyone. This is not just a collection of talent, it's an array of players who can play off each other's strengths and compensate for each other's weaknesses while not compromising character or chemistry.
PG--Damian Lillard SG--Jim Paxson, Billy Ray Bates, Lionel Hollins
SF--Cliff Robinson PF--Buck Williams
C--Bill Walton, Marcus Camby
Coaching Hire: I know it's the obvious answer, but I absolutely must draft Dr. Jack to coach this team. He obviously knows how to play Walton, Paxson and Hollins. And I think a younger Ramsay (from the 70s) would have adjusted to modern players and styles (both on-court and fabric). 6 of my 8 players are very coachable, the 7th (Camby) was coachable until he seemed to have a problem with one specific coach. And the remaining player, Billy Ray Bates, was successful under the very same Dr. Jack. If Ramsay wasn't available, it would be a toss-up between Lenny Wilkins and Terry Stotts.
GM Press Conference: When I lucked into the #2 pick, I couldn't have envisioned how well my team would come together. I feel my starting lineup of Damian Lillard, Jim Paxson, Cliff Robinson, Buck Williams is pretty amazing... and then I remember that Bill Walton is manning the middle! I feel that's absolutely an all-time great Blazer lineup. Lionel Hollins can come off the bench to bring leadership and defense, Billy Ray Bates can bring a very disruptive element into play, and Marcus Camby can ably cover inside. When I feel that my iffiest pick is a very good Camby, then I'm feeling great about my team. My biggest weakness is probably the hole at SF. In short term small-ball lineups, that role could be covered by Paxson and Bates, but I'd like to have coverage. I'd also like one additional big. This is somewhat a natural limitation of an 8 player team; I'd have attempted to grab Bobby Gross and Kermit Washington (or Robin Lopez) with my next two imaginary picks to help round things out. And, of course, injuries could come into play. I do have a number of players without injury issues, but my star has a tendency to get injured. But, like I said when I drafted him, if you can get Bill Walton, that's a risk you have to take.
I love all 5 teams, but each for different reasons: Dane's PG and C platoons intrigue me, Sagar's multiple-generation team anchored by Roy/Aldridge could catch opponents unaware, Chris' team is unorthodox and yet scary, and Sam's team is star-studded and relentless. Every team would be a challenge, but I think my team can beat them all.
PG--Damon Stoudamire, Kenny Anderson SG--Wesley Matthews, Bonzi Wells
SF--Scottie Pippen PF--Maurice Lucas, Zach Randolph
Coaching Hire: For my team, it's got to be Jack Ramsay. Anyone who has read Breaks of the Game knows the challenges that Ramsay faced during the season following the 1977 NBA Championship, and with the amount of fiery strong-headedness on my squad he would be the choice I'd have to mold this team into contenders.
GM Press Conference: My team is built to score the ball, in and out, run the pick-and-roll, shoot the three and dominate the post both in scoring and on the boards. With Scottie Pippen, Maurice Lucas and Zach Randolph, it's any wonder that any team would be able to rip a rebound away from them.
Damon Stoudamire and Kenny Anderson are meant to be the penetrators and pick-and-roll facilitators, while Wesley Matthews sits on the wing for the three and Pippen acts as a facilitator on the wing to either create a secondary attack with his passing skills, run the pick-and-roll or simply work as a backup ball handler much in the way he did for the Blazers of the early 2000s.
If there's a weakness on this team, it's at point defense and post defense. Randolph wasn't a formidable post defender during his time in Rip City, and Mychal Thompson leaves something to be desired in terms of defensive rating compared to, say, Arvydas Sabonis.
It would be easy to pick out that this team has a lot of "head cases" including my No. 3 pick, Lucas. However, Lucas is also the most terrifying prospect, and combined with a head coach of our choosing (Jack Ramsay) I think this team serves itself well enough as knowing who the top dog would be. Additionally, for as close as the Blazers have been to a championship in the last two decades, several of these players were on that squad run by a far less capable coach in Mike Dunleavy.
Defense is the main issue with this team. They don't have a true rim protector and the reliance down low is going to be on Lucas and Randolph to do the dirty work. Teams have worked around that in the past, and with the defensive wing unit in Pippen and Matthews, the plan is to stop the opposing teams at the wing point of attack. From there, the rest of the boys down low will be serviceable enough. Hey, even Sabonis got run over by Shaq.
Is this the most popular team drafted? Certainly not. But I wanted to avoid recency bias, heartbreak and any other negative connotations outside of personal on-court fit that might sway my judgement. I took the players I knew I could get the most value of.
Portland is historically thin at point and center, so those players were going to be taken higher up. Instead of leaping into the pool with the rest of the guys trying to get the best positional value, I took the best talent available at the "stocked" positions and ended up with one of the 50 best players of all-time, the leading scorer from the only Blazers championship, a serviceable duo of point guards, a lights-out three-point shooter and defender and two additional low-post offensive threats.
The team doesn't have a true center, but I avoided drafting positionally, trying not to build a traditional starting five given that we were only given eight picks. In reality, a Robin Lopez would be a ninth pick here, would start the game at center, and then the trio of Thompson, Lucas and Randolph would alternate with Pippen swapping from wing to backcourt when appropriate. Portland is so thin at center it didn't seem a worthwhile use of my top eight picks to grab a Joel Przybilla or someone equally deflating when talking about "Blazer Greats".
The only place I reached was with Stoudamire over Strickland, who I took because of the familiarity with Pippen as a centerpiece since ability to mesh together was an explicit factor in the idea for this draft. The rest of the players I got I felt I drafted talent over need with the understanding that the veterans would guide the less well-centered players. I only missed out on one player in Kiki Vandeweghe and that's because Sam took him at No. 27 right before I was going to at No. 28, where I would have just shifted everyone else down and left Wells off the list.
In any case, there's a lot of talent on this roster that I think fits within the confines of each other, both in veteran leadership and dynamism in Dean Oliver's Four Factors.
PG--Terry Porter SG--Geoff Petrie, Danny Ainge
SF--Jerome Kersey, Kiki Vandeweghe PF--Brian Grant
C--Arvydas Sabonis, Joel Przybilla
Coaching Hire: Dave here. Somehow I lost Sam's coaching hire or he didn't submit one. I'll allow him to alter as he sees fit but when I look at this lineup, I see Rick Adelman all over it. Adelman was great at coaching veterans and great at bringing out the offense in his players. Sam's stacked with both. I see Rick going places with this team.
GM Press Conference: I've harped on it enough, but it remains important: Team Sam is a team in every sense of the word. My guys from top to bottom will play their tails off for each other. Size is probably the biggest problem, especially when you look at the forward position. However, effort is not a struggle for this team -- no lead will ever be too big. My starting unit is one that can play with anyone, but really where I can start to make some major headway is with the bench unit headlined by Kiki Vandeweghe. What's great about that pickup too is that he can be the guy that finishes games: one night it could be Brian Grant that takes a seat for Kiki, another night it could be Kersey or Petrie. One thing I know is that with this team, there won't be any arguments or problems about playing time -- it's all about winning. It's the team you love to root for, and know they'll leave it all out on the floor on a Tuesday against Milwaukee (and if it's Jerome Kersey, quite literally leave it out there he's on the ground so much). That cohesion coupled with a group that will share the ball, knock down threes and play with extreme effort on defense makes my group the best of the bunch.
PG--Rod Strickland, Andre Miller SG--Brandon Roy
SF--Calvin Natt PF--Lamarcus Aldridge, Sidney Wicks
C--Kevin Duckworth, Lloyd Neal
Coaching Hire: If I were to "draft" a head coach, I'd take the great Jack Ramsay. He didn't put up an excellent win percentage, but he has two things going for him: he won a championship and the guy preached theimportance of teamwork.
GM Press Conference: I strongly believe my team has the raw talent required to beat any of the other teams that drafted. Sure, we may have a few small chemistry issues, but because the talent level for this roster is so high, the chemistry issues can be overlooked. My team also has a few fan-favorites from their time in Roy, Aldridge, and Miller. That's just another reason my team will attract a large audience at games.
And there you have it! You've seen the picks. You've heard the speeches. But one thing remains. Vote below for the Best All-Time Blazer roster and tell us in the comment section why you voted like you did. Use any criteria you like. Assume that roster positions 9-12 are filled by roughly equal players. The polls open...now.
--Dave firstname.lastname@example.org / @DaveDeckard