Basketball is truly an international game. Some of the biggest names in the NBA — including five of last year’s All-Star selections — hail from countries other than the United States, along with nearly 25 percent of players overall. This got me thinking; who are the greatest international Portland Trail Blazers of all time?
I considered players’ entire body of work, as well as their time with Portland. Without further ado: my all-time Blazers international starting-five:
Patty Mills - Australia
Probably the weakest international position of the five, this was basically a two-man race between Mills and Sergio Rodriguez. Both players tantalized Blazers fans with their potential but never really managed to become high-impact players. Mills gets the nod for transforming his body and game once he got to San Antonio and played under coach Gregg Popovich; averaging nearly nine points per game on 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc over his eight seasons for the Spurs.
Drazen Petrovic - Yugoslavia
One of the most important players in European history, Petrovic didn’t do much for the Blazers off the bench in his 95 games in Portland, but he erupted once he was shipped off to The New Jersey Nets. Petrovic averaged 19.5 points in his two-plus seasons with the Nets, earning All-NBA honors in 1993. Petrovic was tragically killed in a car accident just weeks after earning that honor, and he left one of the biggest what-ifs in recent NBA memory in his wake.
Nicolas Batum - France
Finally, someone who had the bulk of their success with the Blazers. Batum was the Blazers starting small forward for the majority of seven seasons; from 2008-2015. He put up generally solid numbers, averaging 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game as a core piece of the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge teams. Watching Batum rack up double-digit assists or rebounds for a week straight because “Coach asked (me) to be more aggressive” was maddening for Blazer fans. But, you know, in a good way.
Tie: Mychal Thompson - Bahamas, Detlef Schrempf - Germany
One had a great Blazers career, followed by mediocre play. The other was a true star before wrapping up in a Blazers uniform. One was a PF/C, the other was a PF/SF. Mychal Thompson and Detlef Schrempf tie for the honors of the best international Blazers power forward. Thompson, a former number one overall pick, averaged 16.7 points and nine rebounds in his seven season Blazers career. Schrempf was a two-time Sixth Man of the Year, three-time All Star, and one time All-NBA player who wrapped up his career with the 1999-01 Blazers, providing veteran leadership for the volatile group.
Arvydas Sabonis - Lithuania
He averaged 12/7/2 during his seven year NBA career, all with the Blazers, but he was so much more than that. A legend in his native Lithuania, Sabonis never made it to the NBA until after his body had started breaking down. Sabonis made it to the NBA too late and too early simultaneously. Creative stretch fives are all the rage now, but Sabonis was hitting 3-pointers and finding backdoor cutters while Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic were still in diapers.
Did Rudy Fernandez deserve a spot over Petro? What does Jusuf Nurkic have to do to catch up with Sabas? Let us know in the comments!