NCAA March Madness is just around the corner. In homage to the great annual event we’re running a Portland Trail Blazers bracket here at Blazer’s Edge this month. The idea came from an article from Dia Miller and Dave Deckard, detailing the Blazers they’d most like to see one more time. The piece was fun and well-received, so we’re making a bracket of 16 candidates and letting you vote for your favorites during these January weeks. Eventually we’ll see which player you’d most like to bring back for one more go.
Here are the conventions:
- We’re not including Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler, since everyone should want them back for overwhelming talent and impact purposes. They count as, “Anytime, Anywhere” legends.
- You can vote in the comments or on Twitter @blazersedge. We won’t get as many votes that way as if we just opened a poll, but the discussion is important as well.
- You don’t necessarily have to consider the current roster or the state of the team as you make your choices, but you can. You’re voting for the player you’d most love to see suit up for one more season. The qualities/memories of that individual player are the most important things. Helping the current team is a bonus which can weigh in your decision, but doesn’t have to.
- Sadly, we’ve lost some of the players on this list. We remember them with honor and thank their families for sharing them with us through basketball so we could appreciate and remember them.
- Go ahead and envision the best Blazers version of each player. That’s part of the fun!
This matchup pits a point guard who always wanted to be a Blazer against a far more productive forward who may or may not have felt comfortable in Portland’s uniform.
Nobody who saw LaMarcus Aldridge play for the Trail Blazers between 2006 and 2015 will forget his evolution. Though he was selected second overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, he quickly became the third name in Portland’s championship-bound triumvirate which included Brandon Roy and first-overall selection in 2007, Greg Oden. A funny thing happened on the way to the title, though. Oden’s body fell apart, leaving his career in tatters. Roy’s knees followed soon after. Suddenly the third fiddle was occupying the first chair.
Aldridge responded with four straight NBA All-Star appearances between 2012 and 2015. During that span he averaged 22.5 points per game, becoming a deadly weapon catching at the elbow, then lofting an unblockable jump shot that seemingly never missed. He added almost 10 rebounds plus 2.5 assists, passing to an eager team of three-point shooters gathered around him. Doing so, Aldridge led his team to multiple playoffs appearances in an era where they were supposed to be rebuilding.
The 36-year-old is still suiting up for the Brooklyn Nets today. He plays center now, but a 6’11 power forward with range and 20-point scoring ability would fit nicely on the current Blazers. Plus it would give Damian Lillard and Aldridge a chance to reprise their success at the beginning of Lillard’s career with a callback nearer the end.
Few trades were as anticipated as the 1998 deal that brought Portland native Damon Stoudamire home from the Toronto Raptors organization, where he had won Rookie of the Year honors while averaging 20 points per game. The 24-year-old point guard was expected to lead an ultra-talented team—which would eventually include Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Arvydas Sabonis, Steve Smith, and Brian Grant—to a championship. Stoudamire never scored 20 in Portland, but he almost pulled off the title run. He and the Blazers fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the famous Fourth Quarter Collapse in the seventh game of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. Stoudamire was one period away from becoming the guy with the ball during Portland’s second championship season.
Instead Stoudamire kept plugging away with his quick moves, crafty dribbling, and accurate three-point shooting. At a time when the three-ball was still an oddity, Stoudamire embraced it fully, averaged 36% shooting on nearly four attempts per game over his 13-year career.
The Wilson-high graduate kept close ties to Portland even after his playing days. Though he played for the Grizzlies and Spurs in addition to Toronto and Portland, the Blazers are still the team he’s most associated with, courtesy of 8 seasons in the uniform.
Bringing back Stoudamire would be a callback to the days when players wanted to come to Portland and seemed determined to stay here. It would give fans a chance to see one of the players who was most passionate about the franchise, who also possessed a unique skill set and enough quickness to make use of it, even in 2022. Also, that back-up point guard position behind Damian Lillard? Solved. And with enough talent to keep up the barrage even when Dame takes the bench.
So what’s your choice? If you had to choose between LaMarcus Aldridge and Damon Stoudamire to play one more year, which would it be? Vote in the comments or on Twitter!