Best Draft Picks of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Past 25 Years
Like every team, the Portland Trail Blazers have picked up fresh players during the NBA Draft that turned out to be mediocre, or worse, utter disappointments. Does everyone remember when Portland selected Greg Oden at the No. 1 spot in 2007? He hasn’t played since December of 2009 because of injuries and other issues. However, the Miami Heat have picked up Oden this season and hopefully will give him a chance to get back in the game.
Oden may have been a disappointment, but there are a few draft picks that have proven beneficial for Portland and have flourished as productive players in the NBA. Flip through the slides to learn about five of the best draft picks that Portland has scooped up in the last 25 years.
Damian Lillard, PG, 2012
There’s no surprise here. The Blazers selected the point guard at the No. 6 spot in the NBA draft, and they were lucky to get him. Lillard stepped in as a standout point guard for the Trail Blazers, presiding over the lead guard spot. He averaged 19.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 38.6 minutes per game and will surely continue to improve as his career matures.
The Blazers will hold onto Lillard for four more seasons, paying him over $3 million for 2013-14. Not too shabby for a player with one year of experience. Lillard’s Rookie of the Year win pretty much establishes him as one of the best draft picks in Portland’s history.
Martell Webster, SF, 2005
In 2005, the Portland Trail Blazers used their No.6 pick in the first round of the draft to grab small forward Martell Webster. The 26-year-old now has eight years in the league under his belt, with seasons played for Portland, Minnesota and most recently the Washington Wizards.
For his 2012-13 season with the Wizards, Webster averaged an impressive 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per 28.9 minutes of game play. The Wizards have signed him to a new contract: a four-year, $22 million deal that clearly indicates the team’s belief in the forward’s talent and promise.
Webster has worked his way up from Portland rookie to seasoned player since the 2005 NBA draft.
Zach Randolph, PF, 2001
In 2001, Portland had the No. 19 pick in the draft. The Blazers snagged Zach Randolph, a 6’9 power forward from Michigan State. Along with Portland, Randolph has spent time with the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.
Last season with the Grizzlies, Randolph averaged 15.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. For his career, the power forward averages 17.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Randolph has played a solid 12 years in the NBA and is currently the highest paid player of the Grizzlies squad.
Randolph will make over $18 million for the 2013-14 season, and his statistics and resilience certainly suggest that he’s worth the hefty price.
Jermaine O’ Neal, C, 1996
It’s hard to believe that center Jermaine O’Neal is still playing in the NBA. He entered the draft in 1996 without going to college, and the Blazers picked him up at the No. 17 spot. O’Neal has played for several teams, including Portland, Indiana, Toronto, Miami, Boston, Phoenix and now for the Golden State Warriors.
The center is 34 years old and has been in the NBA for 17 years. Over his career, he averages 13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per 27.4 minutes of game play. Though O’Neal may never have been the star of a team, his resilience is impressive. He has truly made a career for himself in the NBA.
In July, the Golden State Warriors signed O’Neal to a one-year, $2 million deal for the 2013-14 season. Seventeen years after the draft, and Portland’s No. 17 pick is still going strong.
Meyers Leonard, C, 2012
This choice for a “best” draft pick may be a bit risky, but let’s base this selection on potential. Damian Lillard wasn’t the only first-round player that Portland grabbed in the 2012 draft; the Blazers also selected center Meyers Leonard at the No. 11 spot. Leonard hails from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
During his 2012-13 season, the center averaged 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and a field-goal percentage of .545 per 17.5 minutes of game. For a rookie, Leonard got decent minutes and demonstrated his ability to hold his own in the NBA.
Over this offseason, Leonard played well in Portland’s final game of the NBA Summer League tournament. He scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Though some may not label the center a “best” pick yet, I predict that he will earn this title soon enough.
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