After finishing 41-41 in what was supposed to be a breakout year, the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t have many reasons to celebrate in 2016-17. Among the hopeful signs was a titanic performance from starting guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Not only did they carry the team most nights, they set a new franchise record for combined scoring while doing so, averaging 50 ppg between them. It boggles the mind, but even after all that angst there’s an argument that Portland fans just witnessed the best season ever recorded by any pair of Trail Blazers.
Only 7 times in 47 years have two Blazers teammates combined for 45 or more points over the course of a full season. Here’s a chart of those performances.
Several things stand out:
- This list is populated not by All-Stars, but franchise legends. Appearing on it is, in itself, an accomplishment.
- We might claim that finishing the year at .500 moderates Lillard and McCollum’s accomplishment, but that record actually stands at the median of the 7 performances.
- Portland’s starting guards are maligned justifiably for their defense but the only player in that chart with any defensive reputation at all was Jerome Kersey. Everyone else ranged from passable to eyesore.
- Lillard and McCollum are the only guard duo to make the list. Every other combination is guard-forward or guard-center. Credit league evolution—defensive rules and three-point predominance both—but showing up in places where Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter didn’t is still pretty astonishing.
- Kiki Vandeweghe had one heck of a 1986-87 season. Jeepers.
Before I ran these numbers there’s no way the words “2016-17” and “Best...Season...Ever” would have appeared anywhere near each other in my lexicon. Honestly, I’m rethinking now. What say you? Did we just see the all-time greatest performance by any Portland teammates ever? If not, which pair would you place ahead of Damian and CJ?