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Blazers Top 100: Plastic Man Boosts Portland’s Defense

A look at the 100 players and personnel who have influenced the Trail Blazers’ 50-year history.

Greg Ostertag(L), Karl Malone(2nd-L) and Bryon Rus Photo credit should read BRETT CANDALL/AFP via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.

No. 85 | Stacey Augmon

Games Played with Blazers: 284 Regular Season, 30 Postseason

*PTS: 4.6| REB: 2.5 | DEF Win Shares: 6.6 | FG%: 45.7

*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland

Joined Club: January 1997, Acquired from the Detroit Pistons for Aaron McKie, Randolph Childress, and Reggie Jordan

Departed Club: October 1999, Traded to the Houston Rockets along with four other players for Scottie Pippen. Waived by Rockets and immediately rejoined Blazers. Departed as a free agent in July, 2001.

Place in History: No team with championship aspirations lacks offense. Scoring points behind star players is the way you get good in the NBA. But no team seriously contends for a championship without defense. This is the rock on which great teams establish a foundation on.

When Mad Chemist Bob Whitsitt rebuilt the Trail Blazers in the late 1990’s, they ended up with plenty of offense. Rasheed Wallace was a two-way player, but alongside him they fielded Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, Isaiah Rider, Jim Jackson...none of whom were exactly known for stopping people. Portland defended reasonably well at the big positions, but their guards and wings weren’t up to snuff on that end of the floor.

Never one for subtleties, Whitsitt went out and got a pair of players known for defending. Greg Anthony backed up Stoudamire at point guard. For everything else, there was Stacey Augmon.

“Plastic Man” earned his nickname for good reason. He could defend the 2-3-4 positions anywhere on the floor. If his footwork or weight couldn’t get him there, his long arms made up for it. Nobody dribbled or shot anywhere near Augmon with out a hand or two—sometimes seemingly three—up in their business. He’d often draw the opponent’s best scorer. If he defended anyone lesser, the ball just didn’t go to that person. Seriously, they’d just say, “screw it” and pass the rock along. And woe be unto the player Augmon caught trying to lay it in without being aware he was coming from the help side. The airspace would be clear, then half a second after you saw his shadow, the ball was headed off to parts unknown.

Augmon seldom started. He averaged between 16-20 minutes per game in Portland. But his relentless play and hard-nosed “D” helped turn the Blazers from a talented collection of near-stars into a team that made it to the Western Conference Finals and came within a single quarter of reaching the NBA Finals.

Scoring is great, but stellar defense (plus a few dunks when he got the chance) ranks Augmon solidly at 85 in Portland’s Top 100.

Discuss your thoughts and memories of Stacey Augmon below, and check back every day as we continue the countdown to No. 1.