Ranking the Top 25 Players in Portland Trail Blazers History

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Players in Portland Trail Blazers History

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    The Portland Trail Blazers often get a bad rap.

    Given some of the terrible luck they have had over the years, they sometimes are viewed as a snake-bitten franchise.

    But lost in the fact that they have had some lean times, they also have had their run of tremendous talent.

    And while they have only won one title in their history, they have enjoyed some of the most successful runs in basketball history.

    Here are the top 25 players in Portland Trail Blazers history.

25. Nic Batum

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    Admittedly, this is probably too premature to have Nic Batum on this list. He has only been on this team for five years and has only been a focal point of the offense for two.

    But Batum's mix of size, athleticism and skill make him one of the more intriguing players on the roster.

    The key for Batum will be whether or not he wants to be great. He has the skill set to become a poor man's Scottie Pippen but he has to make sure he doesn't focus too much on the "poor" part of that expression.

    For his career, Batum is averaging just over 11 points per game but this past season he took a major step forward in his development. For the first time, he averaged better than four assists per game to go along with nearly six boards and 14 points.

    Batum could become an excellent player but he just has to want it.

24. Kevin Duckworth

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    The late Kevin Duckworth never truly realized his potential.

    A big man with good hands and a soft touch near the hoop had All-Star talent but lacked the discipline to keep his weight under control.

    He had his best year in 1989, averaging 18 points and eight boards per game.

    A two-time All-Star, Duckworth began to slide sharply in the early 1990's and was out of the league by age 32.

     

23. Dave Twardzik

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    Dave Twardzik was another one of those perfect-fit players that made the 1977 team so special.

    Nicknamed "Pinball" for the way he seemed to bounce around everywhere on the court, Twardzik didn't have impressive numbers but he was a fan favorite because of his ability to disrupt on defense and knock down crucial shots on offense.

    Twardzik played only four seasons in Portland but was instrumental in helping the team win it all.

22. Jerome Kersey

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    Jerome Kersey is one of the more underrated players to suit up for the Blazers.

    His numbers don't necessarily jump out at you (just over 10 points per game for his career) but sometimes people forget how huge of a role he had with the Blazers in the late '80s.

    Kersey was the No. 3 offensive option for the Blazers during their top years when they were challenging the Los Angeles Lakers for the top spot out west.

    Kersey was built like a tank and despite standing just a hair over 6'7", he was a surprisingly effective rebounder.

    His offensive game was limited, but his impact on the Blazers wasn't.

21. Brian Grant

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    Brian Grant was the personification of the word "heart."

    Not a gifted offensive player, Grant made up for any lack of talent with the determination and grit that endeared him to Blazers' fans.

    It may be hard for some fans to swallow the idea that Grant, a player that was in Portland for only three years, could make this list above others that spent much more time with the Blazers.

    The answer is simple—quality over quantity.

    Grant may not have had the flashiest of numbers or years and years of service to the team, but he was a memorable grinder that will always be remembered in the Rose City.

20. Damon Stoudamire

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    Damon Stoudamire should probably be higher on this list but he was dropped in my opinion because of his involvement with the Jail Blazers era of Portland basketball.

    On the court, Stoudamire was lightning quick with solid point guard instincts and the ability to set up teammates.

    He was certainly more of a scoring point guard and many of his best years were behind him once he made it to Portland. But he did preside over an era of excellent play on the court, albeit bad behavior off it.

19. Rod Strickland

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    Rod Strickland was one of my favorite players growing up.

    Though not a great shooter, Strickland was known for his ability to set up teammates and get to the rim whenever he wanted.

    Somewhat of a playground legend, Strickland was the bridge point guard between Terry Porter and Damon Stoudamire and helped the Blazers remain relevant in a stacked Western Conference.

    Overall, he probably is ranked a little higher than he should be, but he gets style points for the way he ran the show in Portland.

18. Jim Paxson

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    The irony of the Paxson brothers.

    John is without question the more famous of the two. In fact, I would venture a guess that many of today's less knowledgeable fans might not even know there are two Paxsons.

    But Jim was the real star of the family, getting selected to two All-Star games in the mid-1980s and averaging over 21 points per game in both of those years.

    However, the Blazers never seriously competed for a title during his time there, which made this era forgettable for all those except the die-hard fans.

    But Paxson's blend of size and scoring made him a handful to guard.

17. Mychal Thompson

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    For some, Mychal Thompson was a disappointment in Portland.

    He was the No. 1 overall pick in 1978 and there is generally a belief that a top pick needs to be a transcendent player.

    This never ended up being the case with Thompson as he only lasted seven years in Portland before eventually landing with the Lakers as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's backup.

    But Thompson did have a solid run with the Blazers, culminating in his 1982 campaign in which he averaged nearly 21 points to go along with over 11 boards.

    So while he never became an All-Star in Portland, he certainly wasn't a bust.

16. Kiki Vandeweghe

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    Kiki Vandeweghe is a player I feel often is unfairly overlooked by those that follow the game.

    Part of that is because of the era in which he played. The Lakers and Celtics and even Bulls and Pistons dominated the 1980s and their superstar players forced stars that weren't on elite teams deep into the periphery.

    Vandeweghe was one of those stars.

    One of the worst defenders in the league, Vandeweghe preferred to concentrate almost entirely on offense.

    He was an excellent shooter and showed a surprising ability to create his own shot.

    His best season as a pro in Portland was in 1987. He averaged an incredible 26.9 points per game while knocking down an absurd 48 percent of his threes.

     

15. Zach Randolph

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    Zach Randolph in a lot of ways could have been the ultimate success story.

    A relatively high first round pick at No. 19 overall, Randolph started out slowly. He averaged only two points per game as a rookie on a very stacked Blazers front line and only slightly improved in his second season.

    But by his third year he had figured it out, averaging better than 20 points per game to go along with better than 10 boards.

    Never someone that played above the rim, Randolph imposed his will near the basket with a sweet lefty hook and the strength to get his shot off against anyone.

    Sadly, Randolph's exploits are tarnished by his association with the "Jail Blazers" teams of that era and he ultimately left town in shame.

14. Scottie Pippen

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    Obviously Scottie Pippen is best known for his run in Chicago with the Bulls, but those in the Pacific Northwest remember he had quite a bit left in the tank when he came to Portland.

    Pippen helped add leadership and toughness to the Blazers in the late '90s and helped lead them to playoff success in 2000, although they would famously come up short that year. 

    Pippen played four seasons with the Blazers, leading them to the playoffs each year and contributing excellent defense and a sound ball-handler on offense. 

13. Lionel Hollins

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    Lionel Hollins may seem like an odd choice to some to be included just outside of the top 15 Blazers of all-time, but for those that can recall the title the Blazers won in the 1970s, he will always be a legend.

    Known as a pesky defender and an excellent passer, Hollins also was a very solid scorer, especially in his ability to hit mid-range jumpers.

    He only played a little over four seasons with Portland but he did help win a title and he also was a class act for the Blazers.

    For that title team, he was the catalyst that helped free things up for Bill Walton down low.

12. Arvydas Sabonis

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    The two words that come to mind when discussing Arvydas Sabonis is "what if."

    What if Sabonis came to Portland during his prime and not near the end of his basketball life?

    What if Sabonis hadn't been robbed of much of his skill due to chronic injuries?

    What if Sabonis spent a longer tenure in Portland?

    These are all valid questions, but let's focus on what Sabonis did do on the court for the Blazers.

    When Sabonis made his debut with Portland during the 1995 season, he immediately impressed with his incredible basketball intellect.

    Sabonis was an amazing passer, an underrated post defender and a skilled shooter.

    Sabonis made offense look so simple and electrified the crowd his his ability to find open teammates.

    Sadly, he was just a shell of his former self yet he still averaged a double-double in 1998.

11. Buck Williams

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    Buck Williams is often remembered more for his All-Star seasons in New Jersey but after being acquired by the Blazers he truly gave this team the needed toughness that nearly led to a title.

    Williams is the ultimate interior tough guy.

    Though not physically imposing by any stretch, Williams used every bit of his 6'8", 215-lbs frame to assert his will.

    Williams was known during his time as one of the best rebounders in the game and he continued this tradition in Portland.

    He averaged better than eight boards per game in six of his seven seasons in Portland and became a fan favorite for his professional play.

10. LaMarcus Aldridge

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    If anyone on this list has a chance at shooting into the top three, it would be LaMarcus Aldridge.

    Aldridge plays much like Rasheed Wallace, although, he has been able to reach numbers Wallace refused to touch.

    An excellent low-post scorer with a high release on his jumper, Aldridge has been able to become one of the top-five power forwards in the game and perhaps one of the top three.

    The only thing that has been holding Aldridge back is the effectiveness of the team.

    Right now, Aldridge is putting up impressive numbers on bad teams. If he can keep it up while the talent around him improves, he will start shooting way up this list.

9. Sidney Wicks

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    Sidney Wicks, like Geoff Petrie, dominated during a short period of time in Blazers history.

    Unfortunately for him, during that era the Blazers were just beginning to find themselves and so they weren't very good.

    However, Wicks was a stud. He averaged at least 21 points per game his first four years in Portland and chipped in better than 10 boards per game in three of those seasons.

    Wicks would ultimately be sold by the Blazers to the Boston Celtics prior to the championship season of 1977.

8. Rasheed Wallace

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    Rasheed Wallace is definitely a player you either love or hate.

    He is brash, loud and even a bit of a whiner.

    But few players that have ever worn the Blazers uniform were more talented.

    Wallace not only was an amazing low-post defender, but his post offense was unstoppable.

    He also developed a great three-point shot that some may argue he relied on too much. But offensively, he was almost without flaw.

    The biggest knock on Wallace was that he was content to be just one of the guys and refused to accept greatness. He had superstar talent but he just wanted to fit in.

    If Wallace truly realized his potential he could have been in the top three on this list.

7. Clifford Robinson

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    Clifford Robinson, also known as Uncle Cliffy, had a very solid career in Portland.

    One of the things I personally loved about Robinson was how he was able to reinvent himself as a player in Portland.

    He started out his career as mainly a scorer, eventually becoming the focal point of the offense once Clyde Drexler left town.

    But as his athleticism slightly diminished, he became a very good interior defender.

    Always an excellent marksman from downtown, Robinson was one of the original stretch-4 power forwards.

    He was truly a tremendous talent.

6. Brandon Roy

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    If the story of Bill Walton makes fans believe the Blazers are cursed, then the story of Brandon Roy confirms those fears.

    Roy was on the verge of becoming one of the top five players in the game when his knees gave up on him.

    There was nobody better this side of Los Angeles with their hands on the ball in the clutch.

    Roy combined amazing athleticism with a high basketball intelligence and a great mid-range game.

    Roy even developed an excellent perimeter game and used his quickness and strength to play solid defense.

    Personally, I will never forget his last playoff performance against the Dallas Mavericks when he refused to let his Blazers die and repeatedly hit clutch shots and scoring 24 points in Game 4.

    He was a tremendous talent that was taken from the game way too early.

5. Maurice Lucas

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    Maurice Lucas had a fairly short career in Portland, playing only a little more than three seasons with the Blazers but his importance to the franchise is paramount.

    Lucas paired with Bill Walton to form an imposing interior on defense and a brutal front on offense.

    Lucas was a physical player who averaged over 20 points and 11 rebounds during the Blazers title run season in 1977.

    Though never a great shot-blocker, he used smart positioning and intensity to become a good interior defender.

    Offensively, he had nice touch and a surprisingly solid basketball intelligence to run a solid high post game.

    Lucas' time in Portland was short and sweet and there was no way they would have won the title without him.

4. Geoff Petrie

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    Sometimes forgotten by casual fans, Geoff Petrie was such an important part of the early Blazers family.

    Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star, Petrie burst onto the scene in the Blazers inaugural season, scoring over 24 points per game.

    Petrie would go on to score over 20 points per game an additional two more times and finished his career in 1976 with a career mark of 21.8.

    He was traded prior to the 1977 season and decided to retire rather than play outside of Portland.

3. Terry Porter

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    The point guard is typically the most important position on the court.

    The point guard directs traffic, runs the offense and initiates the plan of attack.

    During the 1980s, the league had its run of great point guards. Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and Dennis Johnson received some of the most fanfare.

    But for those that call the Rose City home, Terry Porter will always be a name worth knowing.

    Porter played a lot like Chauncey Billups did in his prime. He was under control, strong and determined.

    Defensively, he had quick-enough feet to stay in front of elite scorers and enough size to body up those that were looking to push through.

    On the offensive side of the ball, he was an accurate shooter and a smart ball-handler.

    And while Clyde Drexler was the engine of the Blazers during the '80s, Porter made the team run smoothly.

2. Bill Walton

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    Bill Walton signifies one of the saddest chapters in Blazers history.

    Not because he didn't help them win, because he did. And not because he turned out to be damaged goods after being drafted out of UCLA.

    The real reason it was so sad was because of how good Walton was as a player.

    His basketball intellect was off the charts and he instantly made the interior defense intimidating.

    But alas, injuries robbed Walton of his career.

    To look at his impact on the game, one only needs to check out his stats.

    In 1977, the year they won the title, Walton was dominating. He averaged over 18 points per game and led the league in rebounding (14.4) and blocks (3.2).

    Overall, that title belongs to Walton as it never would have happened had I stayed in Portland.

1. Clyde Drexler

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    Without question, Clyde Drexler is the best player to ever lace up sneakers for the Portland Trail Blazers.

    His exploits are legendary and his ability to score was often second to only one in the league, Michael Jordan.

    How ironic, then, that the Blazers technically could have drafted Jordan and paired these two together for a couple decades.

    For two straight years, in 1988-89, Drexler averaged better than 27 points per game.

    Drexler's game was getting to the hoop, and gliding through the air.

    He led the Blazers to two Finals appearances, losing to both the Pistons and Bulls.

    Drexler's impact on this game will never be easy to forget and even today you will see at least a few kids in Portland donning a Drexler jersey. Such is his legacy.