You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.
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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.
These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that has a sadly star-crossed history.
C: Bill Walton. We don’t like hard and fast rules with these lists, but as was the case with Derrick Rose, you better have a really good reason for leaving an MVP out of your top five. Even if, as also is the case with Rose, his time with the team was marred by injury. Several poorly diagnosed stress fractures limited Walton’s time with the Blazers, but he still played 209 games with the team that drafted him and averaged 17.1 points, 13.5 boards, 2.6 blocks and 4.4 assists. His role in leading the Blazers to the 1977 championship, working from the inside-out, remains a franchise high point.
F: Jerome Kersey. It was Walton himself that wrote, just a few years after retiring from basketball, that if he could come back as any player it would be the heady, athletic, versatile, and indefatigable Jerome Kersey. Drafted out of obscure Longwood University, Kersey never made an All-Star team as a member of the Blazers. He only averaged just over 12 points per game with the squad, but acted as the do-everything force (average 19 points per game one year, spend another season as the defensive stopper, whatever it took) on Portland’s unending playoff runs of the late 1980s and 1990s.
F: LaMarcus Aldridge. Blazer fans might not want to hear it, as LMA’s move to leave the team as a free agent this summer resulted in the exodus that led to the team’s current rebuilding project, but you cannot ignore nine seasons of standout play. Aldridge averaged 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds with a block and made four All-Star teams in the crowded Western Conference, working as a series of would-be Portland saviors (Greg Oden, Brandon Roy) sadly saw their careers end prematurely due to injury.
G: Clyde Drexler. The all-time Blazer, Drexler mixed 1980s-era high-end athleticism with an all-around game that was ahead of its time. In a league that featured a litany of shooting guards that were only out to score and little else, Drexler defended, rebounded and dished (a combined 11.9 assists/rebounds in 12 seasons in PDX) alongside those 20 points per game. Clyde was the go-to force between two Western Conference champions out in Portland, making eight All-Star teams along the way.
G: Terry Porter. The consummate lead guard, badly needed on a team featuring disparate talents and personalities, Porter was the steadying presence sent straight from central casting. Drafted out of Wisconsin Stevens-Point, Porter played for a decade with the Blazers and made two All-Star teams. He remains their all-time leader in assists and third-highest in overall points.
Maurice Lucas’ time in Portland topped the length of Bill Walton’s short run – five seasons and 330 games before he was dealt to New Jersey – but because Luke played at the forward slot he unfortunately lost a spot due to Jerome Kersey’s longevity and LaMarcus Aldridge’s production. Several other players from that championship team – do-everything forward Bobby Gross, bull-headed point man Lionel Hollins, and scrappy guard Dave Twardzik also merited consideration. Jim Paxson was a consistent scoring threat that helped convince the Blazers to pass on selecting yet another swingman during the 1984 NBA draft.
Prior to that 1977 Finals burst, the Blazers were usually paced by big man Sidney Wicks, and scoring swingman Geoff Petrie, who turned in an underrated career with Portland before a knee injury ended his career. Though Petrie was not a Blazer when he fell victim to that injury (he had been traded to Atlanta by that point), the same unfortunate knee issues dimmed Brandon Roy’s prospects after a Rookie of the Year beginning to his career.
During several different also-ran eras, Rasheed Wallace, Clifford Robinson, Buck Williams, Kiki Vandeweghe, and Mychal Thompson all contributed mightily and have legitimate claims to Kersey’s starting spot. Kevin Duckworth’s solid play and the 470 career games of Arvydas Sabonis (despite entering the NBA in his early 30s) gave Bill Walton a little competition in the pivot.
That’s our five. Who do you have?
Previous entries: Golden State. Boston. New York. Detroit. Sacramento. Los Angeles Lakers. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago. Houston. Seattle/Oklahoma City. Phoenix. Milwaukee. Los Angeles Clippers. Cleveland.
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