A pair of former Trail Blazers made the cut in a recent special mock draft from The Athletic. In the feature from The Athletic, four contributors drafted five-man teams of former players that would fit in today’s NBA. Both Rasheed Wallace and Cliff Robinson were selected early in the process.
Before the mock draft unfolded, the ground rules for eligibility were outlined.
For purposes of this exercise, we have limited the draft pool to anyone who was draft-eligible between 1985, the first year of the lottery, and 2004, the last draft before the hand check was eliminated. Also: We have eliminated both current Hall of Famers and those who are recently retired or active players who are likely HOFers in the near future, based on consensus from The Athletic NBA staff’s expert analysis. We already know Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, et. al., are great and would be great in any era of basketball. The whole point of this is to identify who would have been even better in a different time.
With the No. 2 pick in the process, The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III selected Robinson. Edwards highlighted Robinson’s versatile offensive game when outlining the pick.
Robinson was ahead of his time offensively. From 1996-2003, only 13 players in the NBA attempted more 3s than the hybrid big man, and of those 13, Antoine Walker was the only front-court player who put up more. Robinson attempted 2,180 3-pointers during that span. The next closest big, Sam Perkins, attempted only 1,312. Robinson didn’t just take 3s; he made them. During the 1994-95 season with Portland, Uncle Cliffy shot 37.1 percent from 3 on 5.1 attempts per game. The next year, he hit 37.8 percent of his 3s on 6.0 attempts per game. At 6-foot-10, with that ability to space the floor, Robinson is the picture-perfect center in today’s NBA.
Robinson, who was selected with the No. 36 pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, played his first eight seasons with the Trail Blazers. During that eight-year stint, he produced averages of 16.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
At the No. 4 pick, The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov landed Wallace. Vorkunov cited Sheed’s on and off the court mentality when explaining the selection.
Sheed was the perfect player for this era. He’s a versatile big man who can defend and stretch the floor. He can protect the rim and switch on the perimeter. He wasn’t a great 3-point shooter (33 percent), but he could shoot. If he played at a time that asked him to be a 3-point threat, he’d get there. The beauty of Wallace is that he could be the focal point of a defense and still not feel like an accessory on offense as a big man. That’s huge. You won’t take him out in crunch time in the playoffs either. Plus, any team that has him would go 82-0 in the press conference each season. Tell me I’m wrong. Ball don’t lie.
Wallace appeared in 544 regular season games with the Blazers during his NBA career. During his run in Portland, Wallace produced averages of 16.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Former Blazers wing Steve Smith was also selected at the tail end of the process.
You can read the full mock draft at The Athletic (subscription required).