Last week, we looked at former Trail Blazers who would have thrived in the modern era. Those players typically operated in a basketball age where spacing and pace were the least of teams’ concerns, players who would’ve thrived in a more fluid and three-happy period of basketball. There were plenty of ghosts of Blazers-past who would have thrived nowadays, from the ones covered last week to others like Drazen Petrovic and Bill Walton.
But for as many past players that would have been a force to be reckoned with now, there are several more from this decade who played like products of a different era. Some of them were fine players who could’ve been just a little better if they played a few decades earlier and some are current players who were just a little too late to the party. Either way, they possess the old school style that aligns with the NBA’s past. Here is a look at a few players from the Blazers’ recent past that fit that bill.
Andre Miller spent his entire 17-year career playing like the old man at the YMCA who tells young whippersnappers about how great *insert old point guard’s name here* was while working 14-year-old kids who just want to shoot step-back threes. While the kids are doing that, old man Miller is winning the game despite never leaving the ground. Seriously, watch the highlights of him. You won’t see Miller soaring through the lane for dunks. You’ll see him saving his knees with crafty layups.
Miller’s classic game worked, and while he never put together an All-Star season, he finished his career averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 assists. He never averaged more than one three-point attempt a game over an entire season, but he still managed to finish his career with a double-digit scoring average as a point guard. This craftiness along with his superb playmaking always meant he was destined for a long career in the NBA, but it’s hard not to think that if he plays just a decade or two earlier he’d be more revered.
Miller had several tools that would have served him well in previous eras. He had a cadre of post moves that you rarely saw from guards, a methodical style of breaking down defenses on the drive, and just an overall feel for the game that is translatable to any basketball period. It’s the type of no-frills basketball that viewers used to drool over prior to the three-point period. Miller did fine for himself during the 21st century, but it isn’t a stretch to imagine him being a hotter commodity in a different era.
I don’t remember what game it was or even what year it was when he did it with the Blazers, but I have consistent memories of Chris Kaman doing things in the post that screamed “dependable journeyman.” As he’s backing a dude down (again, this memory is so vague it might as well have been a dream), he looks all the way to the other end of the court to see how much time he has on the shot clock, then executes a beautiful little jump hook. It was such a beautiful blue-collar move that it nearly brought a tear to my eye. It showed such an innate awareness of what’s happening on the basketball court that I couldn’t help but be impressed.
Granted, beautiful is not how I would describe Kaman’s looks or basketball plays most of the time, as his skills found him caught in the middle of eras (not enough range to space the floor on offense, not enough mobility to switch on defense). But still, he managed to put together some solid years even while battling the injury bug. He displayed soft touch both around the rim and from mid-range while racking up blocks on the other end. He averaged 11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks throughout his career, and if he didn’t have those injury-plagued seasons throughout his career we would probably remember him more fondly.
The same presupposed reverence most likely happens if he plays in a different era. Kaman’s multi-faceted skill set would have shined in a period where teams built around towering big men. He’s solid enough defensively in the paint (he averaged 2.8 blocks per game in the 2010-11 season), and it’s possible that a slower pace could have taken less of an injury toll. Kaman’s stats were solid and his funny beard allowed us to poke fun at him. If he played in 90s, he would not only have had a funny beard, Kaman would have been a franchise centerpiece.
Swanigan’s game, in today’s NBA, is not always easy on the eyes. He moves at a slow pace, is a liability on defense, and doesn’t stretch the floor very well. He has some moments where you can see his potential fit—a topic I covered back in February—but besides the rebounding, it’s hard to see a role for him in the modern NBA.
But what if we don’t put him in the modern NBA? Well, then he has a better chance to thrive, even if that is just as a dependable role player. Swanigan likes to put his back to the basket and go to work, using his big body to beat guys offensively. That works a lot better in the slowed-down pace of the past. If you remove the side-to-side movements and outside shooting of modern power forwards, it is easy to imagine Swanigan impacting the game with forceful rebounds and powerful post moves.
What players from the past decade would you like to transport back to different era?