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. 53 | Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Games Played with Blazers: 86 Regular Season, 0 Postseason
*PTS: 14.3 | REB: 6.2 | OREB: 2.0 | FG%: 48.7
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: February 2004, acquired from the Atlanta Hawks with Dan Dickau for Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person
Departed Club: August 2005, departed via free agency
Place in History: Nobody was going to replace Rasheed Wallace when the Trail Blazers traded him away in the Winter of 2004. In one sense, the bar wasn’t high. Wallace had long been a disruptive force (for good or ill) with the tempest reaching crescendo as the 2003-04 season began. Any player grinding out games quietly would have been a relief at that point. In another sense, the hurdle was immeasurable. Rasheed was one of the best players the franchise had ever seen, leading his team to multiple postseason runs. Talent and skill were prerequisites for whomever replaced him at power forward.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim wasn’t near enough to make Portland fans forget about Wallace in either direction, but he wasn’t too shabby.
Abdur-Rahim occupied a transitional spot in the NBA power forward pantheon. As Wallace himself proved, the league was growing beyond the old-school, bulky four setting up in the lane and bruising his way to the bucket. The idea of a “stretch four” had yet to be adopted. Abdur-Rahim played in the in-between space. In his eighth season, by the time he reached Portland, the lithe power forward had been a 20 points per game scorer for the Vancouver Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks. He had face-up and back-to-the-basket moves. He could dribble and grab an offensive board with equal ease. He could dunk with authority, pass, and even shoot the three when called upon. Though he lacked Wallace’s defensive ability, offensively, he was a jack-of-all-trades.
Shareef didn’t get the chance to shine upon his arrival. Plucked from a secure starting position and deposited into a frontcourt featuring Zach Randolph as a starter, Abdur-Rahim saw his minutes drop from 37 to 23 and his point production plummet from 20 per game to just 10. Injuries to Randolph and familiarity with the club helped him rebound in his second season in Portland. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 34.6 minutes per game, shooting 50% from the floor. Nothing was going to make the 2004-05 Trail Blazers dangerous, but he at least gave them someone for opponents to account for. He topped 20 in 18 of 49 starts and might have been able to do more had not injuries caught up with him as well.
There was no reason for Abdur-Rahim to remain in Portland following the expiration of his contract in the Summer of 2005. He was pushing 30 by then, a veteran star on a roster that was ready to turn over into a complete rebuild. Few mourned when he left to join the Sacramento Kings, but the odd fit and shaky structure around him shouldn’t obscure the fact that this guy could play. Pound for pound, he was one of the best scorers the Blazers have fielded at his position, a guy with more junk in the trunk than he ultimately got to show.
For the proven talent, the scoring, and becoming one of the few bright spots in a couple of otherwise-dismal seasons, Shareef Abdur-Rahim gets the 53rd spot in our Top 100 list of Trail Blazers players and influencers.
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