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!
This matchup features two players who faced stiff competition in Round 1. Which one will edge the other and make it to the semifinals?
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.
Aldridge beat out Damon Stoudamire by the smallest of margins in the first round. Readers cited his scoring ability and playoffs performances in support of the All-Star forward. What will happen when he takes on...
As we all know, Drazen Petrovic is one of the players in this bracket who has passed on. His death in 1993 at the age of 28 sent shock waves through the basketball world.
Petrovic is also the only player for whom we are bending the bracket rules somewhat. We say to consider years with the Blazers as the foundation for your choices. But Petrovic’s seasons with the Blazers, spent behind Clyde Drexler and other veteran guards, were the most muted of his career. Petrovic sparkled in his native Yugoslavia, then in European leagues, receiving the designation, “Mozart of the Hardwood”. His craftiness with the ball was good, but his shooting was legendary. Basketball hadn’t invented a shot that Petro couldn’t hit. Pull-ups were like candy to him, three-pointers like free throws.
Understanding his potential, the Blazers drafted Petrovic in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. He would not join the team until 1989. He played just 12.6 minutes per game in his rookie year, but he averaged 46% from the arc, 48.5% overall. Appropriate to his nickname, watching him hit jumpers was like watching a master at work.
The Blazers ascended through the NBA ranks in Petro’s second and third seasons. Intent on chasing rings, they didn’t have time or patience to put up with his learning curve, or encourage him through it. In January, 1991, they’d trade him in a three-way deal, exporting him to the New Jersey Nets for Phoenix Suns legend Walter Davis. By that point, Davis’ spectacular days were long by him.
Petrovic went on to average 21 and 22 points in his two full seasons with the Nets, shooting north of 50% from the field, 44.4% and 44.9% from the arc. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 1993, just before his untimely death.
It’s hard to separate the desire to want to see Petrovic play again with the absolutely heart-longing urge to just SEE Petrovic again, but both are appropriate, and that’s also true of other beloved players like Maurice Lucas and Jerome Kersey.
Were Petrovic able to take the court in his prime for these Blazers, his distance shooting would make him an instant star in the modern NBA. That, and watching him work so hard for shots that other people wouldn’t even dare to take, make Petro an easy addition into this “Who would you want to see?” bracket.
Petro’s credit was good enough to propel him past franchise great Rasheed Wallace in the first round, though ‘Sheed’s lingering reputation probably didn’t help. Readers cited his shooting ability, untapped potential during his Portland stint, and a simple desire to watch him take the court again as reasons for his nomination.
So who will you take, Petrovic or Aldridge? Vote in the comments below or on Twitter!