It’s not hard to choose the four best Blazers ever (in my opinion, at least): Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, Brandon Roy, and Damian Lillard. Choosing the best forward, however, gets a bit dicier.
Maurice Lucas, Rasheed Wallace, and LaMarcus Aldridge shared sneakily similar career arcs with the Blazers, making it difficult to choose between them. All three players excelled as second options but may not have been cut out to be the top player on a championship team.
Older fans saw that in action with the Lucas who helped propel the Blazers to the 1977 championship, alongside an MVP-caliber teammate, but struggled when he was asked to be the best player on the team in subsequent seasons. Wallace helped the Blazers to consecutive Conference Finals appearances but his ahem mercurial temperament regularly caused trouble. Aldridge excelled as the best player on two 50-win teams but the Blazers were never able to break through to the Conference Finals with him as a leader.
All three of the forwards saw their time in Portland end unceremoniously — in the moment the fans and front office practically welcomed the departure of all of them. As cataloged in Breaks of the Game, Luke may or may not have quit on the team during the 1979-80 season to force a trade to a major market. Sheed’s departure signaled a symbolic move away from the Jail Blazers era and the beginning of a rebuild. As documented by Sports Illustrated:
When the deal went through, Blazers president Steve Patterson tellingly noted that the team had acquired “three players of good character.” Blazers GM John Nash said something something similar: “I think you’ll see a quick integration of these guys in the locker room because they’re good guys.”
Aldridge’s departure in 2015, after a less than stellar playoff outing against the Grizzlies, rankled fans and prematurely torpedoed a talent fringe contender. Nobody outside of Texas was pleased with his decision.
But in later years all three have, arguably, been re-embraced by the Blazermaniacs. Lucas spent time on Portland’s staff and had his number retired; Sheed’s detrimental antics as a Jail Blazer have been written off by many as eccentricities; rumors that Aldridge would welcome a return to the Rose City have not been met with universal pitchforks.
So, how do you choose? Lucas has the championship but spent the least amount of time in Portland. Wallace has the fewest accolades but made up for it with stout defense. Aldridge has easily the best stats and spent the most time with the Blazers. All three have all-star appearances as Blazers but Lucas and Aldridge both have All-NBA mentions, as well.
I’ll admit that Sheed is an obvious third for me at the moment but I’m not ready to choose between Lucas and Aldridge yet. Once summer’s over I’ll probably circle back for a more complete analysis. But, for now, I’m curious to hear which player you think is the best forward in team history. Let us know in the comments!
Who is the best forward in Blazers history?
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