The Portland Trail Blazers have been around since the 1970-71 season when they won 29 games and were led by their star Shooting Guard, Geoff Petrie, who scored 24.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. It only took them seven years to win the 1976-77 NBA Finals, the franchise's only title to date. They later made another appearance in the Finals, but lost, in both 1990 and 1992.
Since 2000, however, the Trail Blazers have been on a roller coaster of wins and losses winning as many as 54 in one season to only 21 in another. With only eight NBA Playoff appearances during the past 17 seasons, the Trail Blazers have grown into a team that makes the playoffs but fails to get much further than that.
They have had many draft picks succeed and fail between 2000 and today, as well as All-Stars and duds at just about every position. The variance between good and bad is what makes the Blazers tough to understand, even today. They just cannot seem to play more consistent each year, to build a contender. So let's take a look at the 8 best and 7 worst players since 2000.
15 Best: Nicolas Batum, SF
Heading into the 2008 NBA Draft, Nicolas Batum was considered one of the best European basketball players in his age. He lead France to multiple championships at almost every age level growing up. Then, once he reached the pros, he played for Le Mans and averaged 12.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game during his second season. It was impressive enough to earn himself a selection in the NBA Draft.
From there, his first year with the Trail Blazers was nothing to admire and was almost forgettable as he was adapting to the American version of the sport. But his second season saw a massive improvement leading to a climb each season until he was averaging around 12 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. The Small Forward position is a tough one for teams because there just isn't many options in the league. Outside of LeBron James, the list of elite Small Forwards is short and that left Batum with a chance to become one of the best.
14 Worst: Meyers Leonard, PF/C
Meyers Leonard is still playing for Portland but is considered one of the worst players of the past 17 years because of his inability to improve. He came in as this monster with a 7'2" frame that helped him dominate in college at the University of Illinois. His collegiate performances turned him into Portland's 11th overall selection of the 2012 draft.
Since then, he has not been able to reach the expectations of the franchise and is currently averaging 16 minutes a night, in his fifth NBA season. That in itself should be a red flag for a player that comes off the bench and does not produce. He is the tallest man on the court, 99% of the time, and yet he averages 3.2 rebounds per game? Is that right?
This past off-season, the Trail Blazers did something no one saw coming and re-signed him to a $41 million contract, over four years. Well, so much for that.
13 Best: Zach Randolph, PF
There were times that Zach Randolph was forced to play Center making him the shortest Center in the league at 6'9" yet still one of the strongest. A player cannot play at the Power Forward or Center positions and not be a powerful force and Zach Randolph is that force. He is now 35-years old and is heading towards the ending to a wonderful career, but during his best years, he was a 20 point, 12 rebound player that you could count on, something that the Portland Trailblazers are currently needing.
Zach was recently featured in a prank hosted by the Memphis Grizzlies very own reporter Alexis Morgan. She was in New Orleans for All-Star weekend asking the fans what they beleived Zach Randolph's chances to win the dunk contest were, and the answers were priceless because, as you may already have realized, he was not in the dunk contest, nor was he even in the All-Star game. But it was one of the funnier moments of the super-serious Zach Randolph's career.
12 Worst: Nolan Smith, PG
By the time Nolan Smith (Pictured Right) was a Senior at Duke, he was considered a star in the ACC. He improved his game from averaging 6.0 points a night to becoming one of the leading scorers in the NCAA his Senior year with 20.6 points per game. He was even named ACC Player of the Year in 2011 when he added 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game too. He headed into the season as a good player but his performance turned him into a great one and that lead to the Blazers drafting him 21st overall in 2011.
Well, as it turns out, not all basketball career's are easy. For Nolan Smith, he can attest to that. He started his career at the infamous basketball factory Oak Hill Academy before heading to Duke for four years. Once he got to the NBA, however, things changed and he immediately fell off the map, playing in only 84 games over two seasons before leaving the sport. For the two years he was active, he only managed 3.3 points in only 10 minutes per game.
11 Best: C.J. McCollum, SG
C.J. McCollum is now in his fourth year in the NBA which means it is do or die time. Most players that are struggling to find playing time or even a spot on a roster usually get until their fourth seasons to prove themselves. C.J. jumped the gun and exploded last season with 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. The season before that, his second year, he only averaged 6.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. That's an insane increase of over 200% across the board.
This season, he has solidified his talents and is now averaging 23.4 points a night. His explosion has turned him into a fantasy stud, for those of you who play fantasy basketball, and a huge help on a roster in desperate need of it. Since he only has four years under his belt, and only two of them where he actually made an impact, it is tough to rank him much higher right now. Maybe in a few years, when he has consistently dropped 20 points a game, will we put him much higher.
10 Worst: Martell Webster, SF
In 2005, the NBA added a rule for their annual draft where any athlete has to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from their high school graduation before becoming eligible. In other words, 99% of athletes now must attend college at least one year before going pro. Martell Webster is a great example of why that rule needed to exist. Teams were drafting future projects right out of high school, for cheap, ruining a ton of their career's in the process.
If Martell Webster went to school, he would have played for the University of Washington, but decided to go pro instead and ended up being selected by the Trail Blazers in 2005. His first season did not go that well and he has since struggled to ever recover. He has shown signs of life here and there but, overall, he has been a huge bust that could have used a year in college before making the leap.
9 Best: Rasheed Wallace, PF
A technical foul can become larger than life, especially when it is called against you, over and over and over again. Rasheed Wallace never had problems with authority, he just had issues with not keeping his mouth shut which lead to a reputation that he simply could not escape. It was almost a certainty that he would end up being called for a technical foul each night, mostly because of who he was and not because of what he did. Don't mistake us here, he definitely earned a lot of those technical fouls, but there have been other players that can get away with a lot more without ever seeing a technical foul on their record.
Now that we cleared that up, let's look at his numbers with Portland. Rasheed averaged 16.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 blocks per night with the Blazers. He was a great fit for them and was a defensive nightmare for opposing teams. At 6'10" tall, he was not just a skinny Center, but rather a big and strong Power Forward that dominated in the paint for many years.
8 Worst: Rudy Fernandez, SG
At the 2007 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns decided to draft Rudy Fernandez, without knowing if they would be able to sign him or not. So they traded him to the Trail Blazers that day, just in case. He waited until the following summer to make the decision on signing with them, leaving DKV Joventut, in Spain, in the process.
Rudy Fernandez was supposed to be a stud but turned out to be a dud in the NBA. Sure, in Europe, he was killing it. He won all kinds of awards playing in Europe including the 2004 & 2008 Spanish King's Cup MVP, 2006 EuroChallenge Final Four MVP, 2006-07 Rising Star award, 2008 EuroCup Finals MVP, and 2007 Catalan Tournament Final MVP. He was a 20 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists type of guy who helped his team win a few titles. So when the Trail Blazers got him, they were excited. They just did not expect him to become a below-average dud.
7 Best: Damon Stoudamire, PG
If you take a look at the last three true Point Guards to play for Portand, you wind up with Damian Lillard, Brandon Roy, and Damon Stoudamire at the top of the pack. Some of the other Trail Blazer Point Guards since 2000 were Steve Blake, Andre Miller, Jarrett Jack, Raymond Felton, and Mo Williams. So it is easy to see where a talent like Damon Stoudamire, who is easily the best defensively between all of the names listed above, would be ranked.
For being such an incredibly talented Point Guard, he was never a big scoring guard and he only averaged 5.7 assists per night, a statistic that separates the men from the boys. But the one thing he did better than the rest of the pack was defend the other team's Point Guard, virtually shutting him down each and every night. The 1995-96 Rookie of the Year in Toronto played eight seasons with Portland before heading to Memphis, where he played another few years before eventually retiring from the NBA.
6 Worst: Sergei Monia, SF
Portland Trail Blazer fans know all about Sergei Monia, the Small Forward from Russia. He was taken 23rd overall in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft but did not sign a contract, or even play a game, until the 2005-06 season. After he was drafted, he remained in Russia playing for CSKA Moscow where he averaged 5.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. They would sign him during the summer of 2015 to a multi-year deal but it only lasted 23 games before he was sent to the Sacramento Kings.
Sergei Monia is 6'8", 220 pounds and is much faster and quicker than a man that size should be. He was deceptively fast and was a great team defender. He was great at playing team defense and owning his role. However, none of it mattered because once he got to Portland, he was barely used, if not at all. He averaged only 3.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, and less than one assist per game with just under 15 minutes of playing time per game. It was simply not a good fit but Portland did not know that until they were already invested in the Russian star.
5 Best: Brandon Roy, PG
Heading into the 2006 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers were in desperate need of help following consecutive seasons of 55 and 61 losses. So they used their number four selection, along with some other players, to land LaMarcus Aldridge, the second pick of the draft, from the Bulls. They also wanted Brandon Roy but had to give up a lot to get him. They traded for the Celtics 7th overall pick, Randy Foye, and then turned around and traded him to Minnesota for Roy.
It turned out to be a great decision as Brandon Roy turned into one of the best Point Guards in franchise history averaging 19 points, 4.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.0 steal per game. However, a degenerative knee condition forced him to retire in 2012 at the age of only 27. He was on his way to becoming the team's best PG, ever.
4 Worst: Sebastian Telfair, PG
It is not easy to live up to your own hype and for every LeBron James success story there is, there are 25 stories of future phenoms that bust out. Sebastian Telfair is the bust.
He is related to Stephon Marbury, giving him access to more publicity and media coverage on his game. That lead to his number one ranking in the country as a fifth grader. At 11-years old, Sebastian Telfair was just on the cusp of becoming a international superstar, and it was all hype. That hype grew and grew, for seven years, until he was drafted by Portland in 2004, 13th overall. However, after being told for so long that you are going to be the next big star of the NBA, it was virtually impossible for him to mentally prepare for the level of competition he would face at the NBA level and he quickly became known as a bust, causing him to force even more pressure on himself to reach the level he had been playing on for all his life.
His numbers just never turned into much of anything and is below-average jump shot, combined with mediocre defense, forced him out the door with the Portland Trail Blazers.
3 Best: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF
LaMarcus Aldridge does something that has gone unnoticed by the fans. He has continuously improved his game, in almost every area and category, in Portland. Before leaving for San Antonio, LaMarcus saw an increase in points, rebounds, and assists each of his nine seasons with the Trail Blazers. He went from scoring 9.0 points and grabbing 5.0 rebounds per night to averaging 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game during the 2014-15 season. He went from being drafted second overall in 2006 and being practically forgotten about after an average rookie season to becoming one of the NBA's elite Power Forwards. He is so talented that the San Antonio Spurs did not hesitate at the chance of signing him to replace Tim Duncan as the franchise's next All-Star big man.
He has always been a team player and it showed when Brandon Roy retired, leaving him all alone to run the organization. His numbers saw a rise now that he was without his All-Star Point Guard. It would be a very bad thing for him not to win a NBA title. He is one of the best in the game and deserves to raise that trophy one day.
2 Worst: Greg Oden, C
No one expected Greg Oden to turn into a complete dud, especially Portland, who used their number one draft pick on him in 2007. He did not even play a game until 2008 before getting injured and missing more time. He then played 21 games in his third season before missing the next three years for various injuries.
As far as disappointments are concerned, Greg Oden ranks among the league's worst, all time. He came in with so much talent and raw potential that he was an easy choice for the top pick in 2007. The Trail Blazers did not do anything wrong at the time when they drafted him, it was a good pick. However, it was a combination of personal issues and a laundry list of injuries that have plagued him throughout his entire career. Maybe things could have gone differently if he remained healthy, or maybe not. It is tough to tell because even when he was healthy, he had issues in the low-post getting open and making plays. He was timid and shy and would pass it off more often than taking the actual shots. He is a bust that many fans were hoping would bounce back one day.
1 Best: Damian Lillard, PG
After the shocking announcement that Brandon Roy was retiring, the Trail Blazers began searching for a replacement and found one at the 2012 Draft when they selected Damian Lillard, the Point Guard from Weber State, with the sixth overall selection. His impact was felt right away and he won the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year award following a year where he averaged 19 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Five years later, he continues to improve his game, as most superstars do, and is now averaging more than 25 points per game. This season has turned him into a true leader now that LaMarcus Aldridge is gone. He has career highs in points and rebounds per game. He has become one of the NBA's best point guards and Portland agreed, signing him to a five-year contract in 2015 worth around $120 million. His All-Star selection snubbing this season has never happened before, in NBA history, for a guy that is putting up 25.7 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game.
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