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Blazers Top 100: Pick Your Poison, Longevity or Immediate Impact?

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

Charlotte Hornets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE 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. 70 | Mark Bryant

Games Played with Blazers: 431 Regular Season, 49 Postseason

*PTS: 4.9 | REB: 3.5 | FG%: 50.0

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

Joined Club: June 1988, Drafted 21st overall in 1988 NBA Draft

Departed Club: September 1995, departed via free agency

OR...

No. 70 | Enes Kanter

Games Played with Blazers: 23 Regular Season, 16 Postseason

*PTS: 13.1 | REB: 8.6 | FG%: 57.7

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

Joined Club: February 2019, signed as minimum-contract free agent after getting waived by the New York Knicks

Departed Club: July 2019, departed via free agency

Places in History: At #70 in our countdown of the Top 100 Trail Blazers players and influencers of all time, we have a study in contrasts: longevity versus immediate impact. It’s the only spot in the countdown where two players are tied. We’ll let you choose your favorite by your own criteria.

The Blazers were hardly hurting when they drafted Mark Bryant 21st overall in the 1988 NBA Draft. The 23-year-old from Seton Hall joined a frontcourt that included veteran Caldwell Jones, All-Star Steve Johnson, future All-Star Kevin Duckworth, steady shooter Richard Anderson, and even the returning Sam Bowie. That was a lot of players to shoehorn into two positions. Coming in low and young, Bryant could have expected a long education on Portland’s bench before seeing significant playing time.

Instead, Bryant impressed former Coach of the Year Mike Schuler so much with hustle and rebounding that he earned the starting power forward spot in the first game of the season, also the first game of his career. Playing alongside Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, and Duckworth, Bryant grabbed 7 rebounds in 17 minutes, hitting 2 of 3 shots from the field that night. He also earned 4 personal fouls, the beginning of what would become an unfortunate trend for him.

Bryant didn’t hold the starting job long. By mid-season he had returned to a more appropriate place on the bench, where he’d spend the vast majority of his 15-year NBA career. He never averaged double-figure scoring or rebounding. He would average a personal-foul DQ per 36 minutes during multiple seasons for multiple teams. But he knew the game, continued to rebound hard, and enjoys a career in coaching to this day.

Other than the surprising start, Bryant’s 493 regular-season games in Portland’s uniform distinguish him as much as anything. He was the classic, “Never say die” role player whose utility came via reliability as much as skill.

OR...

Bryant played more games in the post-season (49) than Enes Kanter played for the Blazers period (39). Kanter was the antithesis of longevity with the club. He signed mid-season after being waived by the New York Knicks. He departed that summer, signing with the Boston Celtics. In between, he became one of the best mid-year pick-ups the Blazers ever had, maybe THE best if you consider players who left after just half a season.

The original idea for Kanter was to back up starting center Jusuf Nurkic, providing size, scoring, and offensive rebounding. He wasn’t the mobile (or willing) defender Nurkic was, but he’d help keep the bench unit from sinking like a stone when the starters were out.

Even in that role, Kanter was good. His influence expanded greatly when Nurkic fell in late March to a season-ending leg fracture. Suddenly the bench stopgap was starting. He responded by turning it up to 11. Granted, 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 22.3 minutes doesn’t look exciting, but that amounts to 21.2 points, 13.9 rebounds (6.0 offensive) per 36 minutes. That’s, “Excuse me, what?” territory.

The best was yet to come. The Blazers headed to the playoffs against Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. The first matchup was considered in OKC’s favor. The Denver matchup should have been an obliteration. Adams did fine against the Blazers, nothing to write home about either way. As expected, Jokic lit up Portland big time, but Kanter stood in for 7 full games, 35 minutes per, averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds. It was enough, barely, to help his injured team get past their advantaged foe. In the process, he even showed flashes of defense that had eluded him for most of his career. It was a magnificent performance.

Today it’s up to you: do you prefer the longevity of Bryant or the once-in-a-blue-moon spark Kanter brought to the Blazers? You can vote for one of them or vote to leave it a tie. Either way, the 70th spot on our Top 100 list will be manned by a player who brought what few others did given his talent level and circumstances with the team.

below, and stick with us as we continue the countdown to #1!