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 second round happens this weekend, and boy, are the choices getting tough!
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. 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!
The first matchup of the second round features a couple of beloved big men, each of whom steamrolled a high-scoring wing in Round 1.
Maurice Lucas was already an accomplished ABA player when he joined the Trail Blazers for the 1976-77 season. He would become an instant fan favorite, averaging 20.2 points and 11.4 rebounds that year, scoring more than teammate Bill Walton. Alongside Walton, he would lead the Blazers to the NBA Championship, intimidating opponents, referees, and anybody else who got in his way with a combination of strength, scoring, and sheer will.
As you can see, Lucas was strong, agile, and his face-up jumper was one of the most devastating weapons in the game during an era when power forwards stayed down low and kept their backs to the basket. He could shoot off the catch or dribble into it. It didn’t matter. If Luke shot it, it was probably money.
Lucas won in a landslide over Kiki Vandeweghe in Round 1. Commenters cited his multi-skill, multi-level game and how his toughness would transform the current Blazers squad. But are those characteristics enough to propel him over...
No player outside of first-overall draft picks created more stir upon his arrival in Portland than 7’3 Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis. His exploits with the Soviet National Team throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s were legendary. He destroyed all opposition behind the Iron Curtain, and most of it in the Spanish pro league, emerging occasionally to lead the Soviets to glory in international competition. He was as big as a mountain, as lithe as a breeze, had huge hands, immaculate footwork, prescient vision, passing ability, and range out to the three-point arc.
Injuries slowed Sabonis and limited his effectiveness well before he joined the Blazers in 1995. Even a hobbled, bulk version was able to accomplish plenty:
Sabas played 470 games for the Blazers, averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 24.2 minutes. His game would translate into any era, including the modern one, especially with his ability to stretch the floor on offense and clog the middle on defense.
Sabonis downed Billy Ray Bates in a near-unanimous first-round ballot. Readers loved his size, versatility, and uniqueness, comparing him to current NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.
Which will it be for you, Sabas or Luke? Vote in the comments or on Twitter! Good luck!