Blessed with one of the NBA’s most loyal fanbases, the Portland Trail Blazers have provided the Pacific Northwest much to cheer about over the last 45 seasons. While the franchise boasts only one championship banner (1977), the Blazers reached the playoffs 31 times since the team’s inception. Through thick and thin, the team has sported excellent and often eccentric talent on and off the floor.
Point Guard – Terry Porter (1985-1995)
Porter or Damian Lillard? Lillard or Porter? Despite my tendency to defer to the more current player when it comes to these lists, I have to give the nod to hard-nosed grinder from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. As a point guard, Porter did the timeless things that will never be irrelevant: run the offense (at any tempo), shoot the 3, and guard the ball. While Porter was never the scorer that Lillard is at age 25, his complete game makes him ideal for this historic starting 5. He is the team’s all-time leader in total assists and steals.
After 10 excellent years with the Blazers, Porter’s No. 30 now hangs from the rafters. As for Damian, he will certainly get his chance to make his mark as the team retools around him. So maybe some day, kid.
Shooting Guard – Geoff Petrie (1970-1976)
Geoff Petrie and Brandon Roy are two great Trail Blazers with tragically parallel career arcs. Both were standouts for the Blazers who had their playing days cut short by knee injuries after only 6 seasons. With all due respect to Jerome Kersey, who was in consideration for the “other” wing on a more conventional squad, both Roy and Petrie exhibited immense offensive talent that Kersey didn’t possess.
The choice of Petrie is a little bit sentimental (an original Blazer) and mostly functional to this particular squad. A healthy Brandon Roy could do more on the court, but Petrie is regarded as one of the best pure shooters to lace them up. Petrie had the misfortune of playing in a time before the 3-point arc, yet over his career he averaged 21.8 points per game and put up 51 points on two separate occasions. Petrie might find guarding today’s wing players a little difficult – but we can hide him, can’t we? In the end, the guy deserves to play a couple games with modern scoring rules that greatly increase his value.
Small Forward – Clyde Drexler (1983-1994)
While probably the most iconic Trail Blazer, Drexler was never able to bring a title home to Portland. Though they came tantalizingly close, Drexler’s teams were vanquished by the Bad Boys, the Showtime Lakers, and the Jordan Bulls in consecutive postseasons from 1990-1992. Because of that, Drexler never reached the apex of stardom like some of his peers. Yet it’s possible no one this side of John “Hot Plate” Williams had a more appropriate nickname than The Glide. The silky smooth Drexler would be a handful is today’s game with his size (6’7) and ability to get to the rim. While not a long-range gunner, Drexler’s three-point shooting steadily improved over his career. From 1987 through 1992, Drexler never had a win-shares per 48 minutes below .197. He played in a different time and at a different tempo but I think he was a more complete player than he gets credit for. A 10-time All Star, Drexler would be able to match up with a lot of today’s wings and would likely shoot a ton of free throws. His status as arguably the Best Blazer Of All Time is earned.
Power Forward – LaMarcus Aldridge (2006-2015)
Similar to the point guard decision, deciding between the gritty Maurice Lucas and the uber-skilled Aldridge wasn’t easy. And again in this case, longevity gets the nod. Lucas earned a ring but only spent three seasons with the team. Aldridge was something else.
When the Blazers sent Victor Kryhapa and the rights to Tyrus Thomas to the Bulls on Draft Day 2006, the return of Aldridge (and Roy from a separate trade in the same draft) marked a turning point for a struggling franchise.
Since 2006, the Blazers notched at least 50 wins (in an often hellacious conference) on four separate occasions. Aldridge put up 19.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game over his nine seasons in Portland. With an arsenal of post moves and ability to stretch the floor to 20 feet, he’s a matchup nightmare.
I’m sure the sight of the recent era in the rearview mirror will look bittersweet to some Blazers’ fans. There’s a lot of “what could’ve been” that was derailed by injuries. But while Aldridge is taking his impressive skill set to San Antonio as the Blazers look to rebuild, his contribution to a team that won only 21 games the season before he came aboard can’t be overlooked.
Center – Bill Walton (1974-78)
Bill Walton has been a character and a fixture of the sport of basketball as long as most fans can remember. So it’s easy to forget the unyielding beast that was Blazers’ Bill Walton. In Portland’s only championship season, Walton led the NBA in blocks (3.4) and rebounds (14.4).
Portland Walton was pre-severe injury Walton. A long-haired “pre-razor” Walton, who sported PERs of 20, 19.5, 22.9 and 24.8. An unorthodox machine who led the league in rebounding percentage three of his four years in Portland.
Walton was a “different” guy for sure, but one who I’d go into battle with on any day and twice on Sunday (as long as the Dead wasn’t on tour).
Previous all-time starting fives: Bulls, Pistons, Thunder-Sonics, Magic, Mavericks, Heat, Lakers, Wizards, Pacers, Raptors, Knicks, Bucks, Nuggets, Celtics, Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans-Hornets-Jazz, Clippers, Jazz, Spurs, Suns, Kings, Cavaliers, Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Timberwolves, Warriors