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. 19 | Geoff Petrie
Games Played with Blazers: 446 Regular Season, 0 Postseason
*PTS: 21.8 | AST: 4.6 | REB: 2.8 | FG%: 45.5%
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: March 1970, 8th overall selection in the 1970 NBA Draft
Departed Club: August 1976, traded with Steve Hawes to the Atlanta Hawks for the second pick in the ABA dispersal draft
Place in History: Whenever an expansion team enters the NBA, the big question is how long it will take them to find something to hold onto. Wins won’t provide the answer; they’re not forthcoming. New, growing teams need a reference point, an anchor in the storm, something or someone to build around as they take their lumps. Reference the pre-Kevin Garnett Minnesota Timberwolves for an example of stunted growth for want of a central core.
The 1970 Trail Blazers didn’t have to worry. They got their start in the finest fashion possible thanks to one brilliant draft selection: Princeton guard Geoff Petrie.
Petrie set the pattern for what would become the Trail Blazers modus operandi in their inaugural decade. He came from a small (yet prestigious) school, generally residing in the “overlooked, but with plenty of upside” camp. He had a defined skill—in his case, shooting the lights out—and a great mind for the game. He could operate in the team system but had enough talent to take over a possession on his own.
Petrie and the Blazers became a match made in heaven. A 25-point average in his rookie season would set the tone, not just for his personal play, but for the team as a whole. If they had nothing else, they had their #1 guy, right out of the gate.
Petrie was a sniper in an age before the three-point arc. His shooting form was reportedly so consistent and pure that he would not only make shots in practice, he would hit them in such a way that the ball would roll back to him afterwards. If you were going to host an all-time shooting contest among Trail Blazers players, Petrie would be right up there with Drazen Petrovic and Kiki Vandeweghe on the invite list.
Playing on an expansion team allowed Petrie to stretch his wings fully as a rookie. He attempted almost 22 shots per game, drawing over seven foul shots a night on top. He wasn’t a ball hog; he averaged a team-high 4.8 assists, just edging out point guard Rick Adelman for the honors. He was a special offensive player and it showed.
Petrie would be named to the 1971 NBA All-Star Team. Months later, in a class that featured Bob Lanier, Pete Maravich, Calvin Murphy, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, and Dan Issel, Petrie would earn Rookie of the Year honors. sharing them with Boston center Dave Cowens.
This was just the beginning, though. Petrie would go on to average 24 or more points three times over the next six years, earning a spot on the 1974 All-Star team. He ranks 8th on Portland’s all-time scoring list today, 4th in PPG average.
In the video below, you’re going to notice a few things. First, Petrie’s offense wasn’t confined to jump-shooting. He got open on the move and was relatively quick in his movement between catching and scoring. Second, at least on that night, Geoff wasn’t going to hit that big man on the break. He was always ready to score it. Third...that shot tho. Wow.
The 39-point performance against Cleveland on January 4th, 1971 comes in perspective when you consider it was only his 7th-highest scoring game of the year. That video wasn’t Geoff Petrie going crazy, it was Geoff Petrie going Geoff Petrie. The rookie would score 30 or more in 22 out of 82 games played that year, with a season high of 46 points against Seattle in March after twin 43-point performances in February.
46 points, as a rookie. Yeah.
Petrie would cement the franchise mark for scoring twice in 1973, both times against the Houston Rockets, pouring in 51 points each outing. The first game he managed it on 19-35 shooting. The second time he shot 19-28.
Petrie’s contributions didn’t stop when his career wound down either.
New head coach Jack Ramsay was prepared to run an up-tempo style when he joined the franchise in 1976. By this time, injuries and mileage had robbed Petrie of whatever speed he once had, which wasn’t exactly blazing to begin with. This was also the summer of the ABA dispersal draft, where former stars of the rival league would be selected by NBA franchises. The Blazers held the fifth pick in that draft. The Atlanta Hawks held the second. As it turns out, they were willing to swap that selection for Petrie. Petrie would never play a game for Atlanta, but the player Portland selected with the pick—Maurice Lucas—ended up a franchise star.
(Portland selected Moses Malone with their own pick, by the way. What a day that might have been...)
Petrie also served as Portland’s Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations from 1992-1994, most notably presiding over the signings of Mario Elie and Chris Dudley, plus the trade that sent Kevin Duckworth to the Washington Bullets for Harvey Grant. He would serve in a similar capacity with the Sacramento Kings between 1994-2013, twice winning NBA Executive of the Year.
For the sweet shooting, buckets upon buckets, the records, and becoming the first universally-acclaimed star in franchise history, Geoff Petrie earns the 19th spot in our Top 100 list of Trail Blazers players and influencers.
Share your memories of Geoff Petrie and the early Blazers here, and stick with us as we march towards number one!