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Five GMs Shine in Portland Trail Blazers Franchise Redraft

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Can you create a functional 12-man roster from 50 years of Trail Blazers players?

Portland Trailblazers: Clyde Drexler; Buck Williams; Jerome Kersey Photo by Brian Drake/NBAE via Getty Images

Earlier this summer, Blazer’s Edge ran down the Top 100 Portland Trail Blazers players and other figures who had influenced the course of the franchise over the last 50 years. It was a mammoth project, running months, with a hotly-contested finish among the top three players and even more controversy in the Top 20.

After the series was finished, we placed a challenge before four Blazer’s Edge staff members and one reader. Dia Miller, Eric Griffith, Kyle Garcia, Nate Mann, and BlazerFanSince1970 all lined up to take their best crack at redrafting the franchise, creating the best team of 12 from among all Trail Blazers players throughout history.

The rules were simple:

  • Rosters would be comprised of 12 players
  • We were not drafting coaches, executives, or other personalities
  • Anyone who had played actual games for the team was eligible to be drafted. The players did not have to make the site’s Top 100 List. [No Moses Malone, though.]
  • The draft would use the “snake” format, with GM’s drafting in A-B-C-D-E order, then E-D-C-B-A.
  • Readers would judge who drafted the best.

Today we’re revealing the five teams to you, then asking your opinion on your favorite. You can use any criteria you wish while judging. Just let us know your favorite and explain why you chose that team in the comments.

We asked each GM to give us a couple paragraphs on their team and its merits. Some stuck to that, others gave you WAY more. Fair enough...we’ll let you know what they said.

GM’s were free to reposition players in any way that made sense to them. We’ve listed the players at the positions they played most frequently in Portland, but envision them sliding between positions as you wish.

Here are the teams! Which is your favorite?

Dia Miller

C: Arvydas Sabonis, Enes Kanter, Robin Lopez

PF: Brian Grant, Buck Williams, Carmelo Anthony

SF: Scottie Pippen

SG: Steve Smith, Bonzi Wells, Gary Trent Jr.

PG: Damian Lillard, Nick Van Exel

My first reaction upon realizing I had been selected for the first pick was excitement. That excitement almost instantly turned to the feeling of having to choose between two children and decide which one is my favorite. I grew up watching Clyde Drexler, and my first reaction was to choose him. But then, there’s Damian Lillard.

While Drexler is arguably one of the best to have ever worn the Trail Blazers jersey, Lillard is gradually making a big name for himself. I think there will be a day when he is known as the best Blazer of all time. On top of his obvious skill, Lillard is an incredible leader. I ultimately went with him for the simple reason that because of his leadership, the rest of the players are better. Lillard is the perfect player to build this team around.

Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis seem like a perfect fit for a player like Lillard. Pippen is such a versatile player, and Sabonis is a solid passing asset. Between him and Brian Grant setting screens, and Steve Smith working the other wing, Lillard would be really difficult for a defense to stop.

If the opposition could stop Lillard, the rest of that offense is hard to contain as well. Both Grant and Buck Williams are solid defensive players. Williams proved just how solid when he was traded to the Blazers and became a big asset to their defense, even though he’s an incredible post talent as well.

The second unit is full of players who have proven to be reliable scorers and solid, consistent players. Carmelo Anthony, Nick Van Exel, Bonzi Wells, and Enes Kanter are all high energy players who can consistently put up points. Robin Lopez is another consistent, solid big man, and Gary Trent Jr, though still fairly new to the league, has shown that he is here to stay.

Aside from the incredible amount of skill that each of these players brings to the table, this lineup is packed full of fan favorites. They are not only quality players on the court, they are excellent human beings, fantastic entertainers, and players that Portland fans love to root for.

This team has so much versatility on the court. They’re solid offensively and defensively no matter what the opposing team throws at them. This is a team that has essentially no weaknesses, which is exactly what an all-time team should look like.

Kyle Garcia

C: Bill Walton, Mason Plumlee, Jermaine O’Neal

PF: Cliff Robinson, Zach Randolph, Shareef Abdur-Rahim

SF: Jerome Kersey

SG: Drazen Petrovic, Danny Ainge, J.R. Rider

PG: Rod Strickland, Steve Blake

According to my cursory googling, Nicolaus Copernicus proposed the heliocentric theory in 1508 (probably). When it comes to describing the revolutions around the Earth it seems to do an adequate job, and I think it applies to my team as well. If we apply a Copernican-esque theory to my team, I think we will find that a team that centers around our No. 1 Blazer would be quite effective.

Bill Walton is more than capable of dominating both ends of the floor by himself, and with the teammates I’ve given him he can have an offense that revolves around him. Just give the ball to him and have any of Drazen Petrovic, Cliff Robinson, Jerome Kersey or Rod Strickland scoring on all three levels and taking down whoever stands in their way.

The only argument against my team is that it’s too deep, like the Jail Blazers of the early 2000s. There’s a good chance Jermaine O’Neal languishes on the bench more than he should and a fair argument for either Cliff Robinson or Zach Randolph starting at the 4. But Bill Walton is a generational talent who can easily anchor this squad to victory. Everyone else complements him greatly.

Imagine a team with Petrovic and Robinson wreaking havoc on the three-point line along with Kersey and Strickland constantly cutting to the basket causing problems for opposing defenses. Then imagine that you have to face starting-caliber talent in the second unit. I feel comfortable saying that this team can operate effectively going 10-deep if necessary, and my starting five is already very deadly. This team will cause problems for opposing squads.

Eric Griffith

C: Kevin Duckworth, Dale Davis, Marcus Camby

PF: Maurice Lucas

SF: Nicolas Batum, Bob Gross, Detlef Schrempf

SG: Brandon Roy, Jim Paxson, Geoff Petrie, Lionel Hollins, Billy Ray Bates

PG: [convert one of the shooting guards]

The strongest argument for my team is the all-league honors the players racked up during their illustrious careers. Specifically my roster has more All-Star, All-NBA, and All-Defense appearances while with the Blazers than any re-draft opponent.

The numbers:

1) All-Star players: 6 (Roy, Lucas, Paxson, Petrie, Duckworth, Hollins). No other team has more than three All-Stars.

2) All-NBA players: 3 (Roy, Lucas, Paxson). No other team has more than two All-NBA players.

3) All-Defense players: 3 (Hollins, Lucas, Gross). No other team has more than two All-Defense players.

The rest of the roster adds swiss army knife versatility (Batum), shooting (Schrempf), rebounding/toughness (Dale Davis), and high-end defense (Camby). Heck, the end of my bench is a legend in and of himself — Billy Ray Bates. If all else goes wrong my coach can just toss Billy out there to win the game singlehandedly.

Nate Mann

C: Mychal Thompson, Sam Bowie

PF: Rasheed Wallace, Al-Farouq Aminu

SF: Kiki Vandeweghe, Gerald Wallace, Darius Miles, Martell Webster

SG: Rudy Fernandez

PG: Terry Porter, Damon Stoudamire, Kenny Anderson

As someone who didn’t start watching the Portland Trail Blazers seriously until Brandon Roy revived the franchise, I entered this redraft without the faintest idea of a plan. When I was named the fifth (and final) pick and subsequently selected Terry Porter, I realized that I should draft a team that could succeed in today’s NBA. That influenced my second pick — Rasheed Wallace — who is an ideal big for contemporary basketball with his defense and shooting...and complaints directed toward refs.

I didn’t entirely stray from big men, however. Some matchups call a center or two, so I used my middle picks to grab Mychal Thompson — a passing big — and Sam Bowie (because Michael Jordan wasn’t available). I tried to fill out the roster with 3-and-D guys, perhaps the most valuable player archetype in the NBA right now, and guards who can facilitate as well as score from all three levels. With a perfect blend of multi-positional passing, bountiful shooting and floor spacing, isolation scorers, and rim-protecting big men, I think my team could scrap with any other squad.

Blazer Fan

C: Jusuf Nurkic, Greg Oden, Hassan Whiteside

PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, Calvin Natt, Sidney Wicks

SF: James Jones

SG: Clyde Drexler, CJ McCollum, Wesley Matthews

PG: Andre Miller, Seth Curry

The Making of Team Drexler

First, my thanks to Dave and the staff for letting me participate. This old dog didn’t teach the young puppies any new tricks, but I may have surprised them by not drafting Ron Knight, Shaler Halimon, and Gary Gregor from the 1970 Trailblazers. Instead I assembled a team to win in today’s NBA, not during the Nixon administration. After selecting Clyde Drexler, my next 4 picks are players still in the NBA today! Of course, every player’s contribution to the team must be evaluated based on their Blazer career, not before or since.

As acting-GM my strategy was to take advantage of Clyde’s open-court game, but also draft a floor general, rebounders, and interior scorers that would thrive in a half-court offense. I put a huge premium on having exceptional 3-pt shooting in my regular rotation, and then added 3-pt specialists that could deliver in limited minutes when needed. Finally, I wanted defense in the paint with rim protection as well as some strong defenders on the perimeter.

It’s Clyde’s Team

I don’t have to describe how amazing 7-time All-Star Clyde Drexler was in his Blazer career. Dave described the Hall of Famer, voted one of the 50 Greatest Players of All-time, as the “best overall player” the Blazers ever had. Unless you have a logo-fetish, you know “The Glide” was also the most exciting player to ever wear a Blazer uniform as he led his teams to two NBA Finals. But you may not realize that Clyde was also a great defender. He’s #45 all-time in NBA defensive win-shares with only a handful of shooting guards or small forwards above him on that list.

The 6’7” Drexler and 6’7” Jerome Kersey were the high-flying wings of their great NBA Finals teams. In Jerome’s absence, I’ll play Clyde predominately at small forward to make room for another great Blazer defender and shooter, Wesley Matthews. The term “3-And-D Player” may have been invented to describe Wes, the heart and soul of his Blazer teams.

I picked Calvin Natt to backup Clyde at small forward. Natt almost gets overlooked on this team, but he shouldn’t after averaging 17.2 points on exceptional 54.5% shooting, and pulling down 6.9 rebounds per game over 5 Blazer seasons.

The Sharp Shooters

Nobody wins in the NBA today without taking a lot of 3-pt shots, and making them efficiently. So I set out to draft the Blazers most accurate 3-pt marksman.

Only three Blazers in history (with 100 or more career attempts) converted 2.0 or more 3-pt shots per game - C.J. McCollum (39.7%, 2.1), Wesley Matthews (39.4%, 2.3), and Dame Lillard (37.1%, 2.9). I drafted C.J. (7.4 attempts per game this season) and Wes (7.4 attempts his final Blazers season), who were not only the highest percentage shooters, but also #2 and #3 all-time in 3-pt shots made and attempted.

To find 3-pt shooting specialists for the bench, I relaxed the criteria from 2.0 to 1.5 makes per game (with 100 or more career attempts). Then the top-4 percentage shooters in their Blazer careers were Seth Curry (45.0%, 1.5 in 19 minutes) and James Jones (44.4%, 1.6 in 22 minutes), followed by C.J. (39.7%, 2.1) and Wes (39.4%, 2.3). So I also drafted Curry and Jones, and had successfully acquired all of the top-4 Blazers on that Sharp-Shooters list.

Not to be forgotten, Clyde steadily improved his 3-pt shooting as the NBA game evolved, and shot a very respectable 36.3% on 5.9 attempts during his final Blazer year. Even LaMarcus Aldridge finally stepped back behind the 3-pt line in his final year as a Blazer and shot 35.2% on 1.5 attempts a game.

The Lobster and The Marathoner

As soon as I drafted Drexler and Aldridge I began looking for the right moment to acquire a certain veteran point guard that I knew could deliver the ball to them exactly where they wanted it. Andre Miller came to the Blazers at age 33, and averaged 32 minutes a game, 13.3 points, and 6.2 assists. He had that incredible 52-point game, but that wasn’t why I wanted him. I wanted him for his passing ability and veteran smarts.

Andre’s the Master Lob’ster, the perfect player to receive an outlet pass, push it up the floor, and then put the ball into the clouds exactly where Clyde, in full sprint down the other side of the floor, can soar up to spear it with one hand and slam it home. Andre’s also the perfect playmaker to run the half-court offense and find my deadly 3-pt shooters for open looks. And remember the first time you ever saw Aldridge change his game and start spinning away from his defenders to dunk lob passes at the rim? Yep, it was Miller on the other end of those passes.

C.J. McCollum will start at shooting guard and backup Andre Miller at the point. As Dame Lillard’s most productive target, C.J. leads the annual NBA Marathon in miles-run. Yet, he’s found places to hit pause and register 4.3 assists per game this season. But without Dame, C.J. kicks into another gear and becomes a triple-double threat.

When Dame was out for a 6-game stretch this year, C.J. hit the stratosphere. In consecutive games he went: 27/6/10, 41/9/12, 28/4/10, 28/3/8, 35/5/5, and 41/5/5. That’s an average of 33.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 8.3 assists. When Dame returned C.J. still averaged 5.8 assists over the 4 games before the shutdown. With Clyde Drexler averaging 5.7 assists in his Blazer career, the ball distribution duties on this team are covered.

The Enigma Machine

Younger fans won’t know Sidney Wicks well, but I watched his 5 years in Portland so drafting him was a no-brainer. His 6’8”, 225-pound physique was chiseled from granite, but he had the leaping ability and quickness to excel as a small forward or power forward in today’s more position-less NBA. He was equally adept playing a power game or using his athleticism to go over or around players.

Sidney was the consensus #1 pick in the 1971 draft, but Portland got him with the #2 pick by paying Cleveland $250,000 to not draft him. Sidney was Rookie-of-the-Year and an All-Star his first season. Then, he followed that with three more All-Star appearances as a Blazer.

During his 5-years Wicks led the Blazers 3-times in scoring, twice in assists, and once in rebounding while sharing the floor 5-years with Geoff Petrie and 2-years with Bill Walton. And he was a stellar defensive player. Wicks blocked future NBA/ABA Hall of Fame center Artis Gilmore 5-times to win the 1970 NCAA Championship game. Dave summed up his complete game:

“He finished Top 20 in the NBA at least once, and often multiple times, in every statistical category you can name, including assists, blocked shots, defensive win shares, overall win shares, field goal percentage, PER, Box Plus/Minus, and VORP.”

As a Blazer he was #1 in career point average (22.3) for centers or power forwards (Aldridge was #2, 19.4), and had 3 of the 8 highest single-season point averages (Aldridge had 4 of the 8).

Sidney was also #1 in career rebounds average (10.3), and #1 in career assists average (4.1), of all Blazer power forwards.

Dave covered his personality in detail. He wasn’t Mister Congeniality to his teammates or coaches, and he openly feuded with Geoff Petrie. Fans and the press took sides. He wasn’t the Ivy League, Princeton graduate. He lost the PR battle, and seemed to sour on basketball after his 5-year stay in the early 1970’s Portland. I suspect his career would have endured more successfully in 2020. That’s the enigma. But rest assured, Sidney Wicks, the Blazers All-Star, would have been a terror at small forward and power forward in this era.

21 Feet of Bad Boys

The Bosnian Beast wanted his team to be “Bad-Boys”, and Neil Olshey wanted a “two-headed monster” to play “bully-ball in the paint”. I’m reasonably sure Neil envisioned a Nurkic-Hassan tag-team, rather than putting both heads of that monster on the floor at the same time. But none of that came to pass when Nurk went down for a long count. Well, I fixed it. I give you the Bad-Boys, a Three-headed Monster tag-team.

My starting center, and it’s non-negotiable, is 7’0 Jusuf Nurkic, and he’s mad. He wasn’t happy to be only #50 on the Top-100 list after he was having an All-Star year prior to his injury. We’ll run the Pick-and-Roll on one side of the key with Nurk, and the Pick-and-Pop on the other side with Aldridge. Andre Miller and Clyde, who can teach an aerial passing clinic whenever he’s headed toward the rim, will also be looking for CJ, Wes, Seth, or James Jones camping out around the 3-point line.

When Nurk needs a breather, enter 7’0 Hassan Whiteside, who has taken down 16.3 rebounds per game, and put up 14.2 points on 62.1% shooting this year. He’s also blocked an NBA leading 3.1 shots a game, and we’ll let him continue to go for blocks because he won’t be playing next to Carmelo Anthony anymore. Hassan will be paired with Sidney Wicks at power forward, who’s a fine defender and collects 10.3 rebounds a game. If Hassan gets out of position going for a block, Sidney will clean up after him.

And finally, if Nurk or Hassan pick up too many fouls, or we just want to scare the pants off the other team, in comes Greg Oden, our third 7’0 Bad Boy. We’ll watch in awe as Greg terrorizes the rim and any point guard that dares to enter the paint – and then we can dream again of things that could have been.

Typical 9-Man Rotation

PG - Miller (32), CJ (16) / Seth (*)

SG - CJ (16) / Wesley (32)

SF - Clyde (34) / Natt (14) / Jones (*)

PF - Aldridge (28) / Wicks (20)

C - Nurk (28) / Whiteside (20) / Oden (*)

* Spot minutes depending on situations, matchups, injuries, or fouls

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Hope you enjoyed it! Vote below!