NCAA March Madness is just around the corner. In homage to the great annual event we’re running a Portland Trail Blazers bracket here at Blazer’s Edge this month. The idea came from an article from Dia Miller and Dave Deckard, detailing the Blazers they’d most like to see one more time. The piece was fun and well-received, so we’re making a bracket of 16 candidates and letting you vote for your favorites during these January weeks. Eventually we’ll see which player you’d most like to bring back for one more go.
Here are the conventions:
- We’re not including Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler, since everyone should want them back for overwhelming talent and impact purposes. They count as, “Anytime, Anywhere” legends.
- You can vote in the comments or on Twitter @blazersedge. We won’t get as many votes that way as if we just opened a poll, but the discussion is important as well.
- You don’t necessarily have to consider the current roster or the state of the team as you make your choices, but you can. You’re voting for the player you’d most love to see suit up for one more season. The qualities/memories of that individual player are the most important things. Helping the current team is a bonus which can weigh in your decision, but doesn’t have to.
- Sadly, we’ve lost some of the players on this list. We remember them with honor and thank their families for sharing them with us through basketball so we could appreciate and remember them.
- Go ahead and envision the best Blazers version of each player. That’s part of the fun!
Our next matchup features two classic stars with much different legacies, each deserving of a spot for their own reasons.
Rasheed Wallace left the Portland Trail Blazers as one of the stronger villains in franchise history. That can’t obscure a few facts.
First, his early seasons were phenomenal, with a capital “PH”. You can see some of his Blazers highlights on NBA.com. You’re going to notice a few things: leaping ability, alley-oop plays, and an absolutely buttery face-up jumper that would extend out to the three-point arc before his career was over. Recall that ‘Sheed was labeled “lazy” for wanting to shoot the three as a tall power forward. He wasn’t lazy, he was the future.
What you won’t be able to tell from any highlight reel is Wallace’s eye for the right play. Offense or defense, scoring or passing, he knew what the court was supposed to look like. The lack of stepping up in the clutch for which he was maligned was the shadow side of his unselfishness. You also won’t see his ability to carry the Blazers through the playoffs. Only twice in his seven-year Blazers career did he fail to average higher in the postseason than he did in the regular season, and that not by much.
Let’s be frank: if the Blazers had a player like Wallace today, they’d be a much different team. He would be the tonic in the frontcourt. Between that and his undeniable talent, choosing to see ‘Sheed for one more season wouldn’t be a bad choice for Blazers fans.
As we all know, Drazen Petrovic is one of the players in this bracket who has passed beyond our mortal sphere. His death in 1993 at the age of 28 sent shock waves through the basketball world.
Petrovic is also the only player for whom we are bending the bracket rules somewhat. We say to consider years with the Blazers as the foundation for your choices. But Petrovic’s seasons with the Blazers, spent behind Clyde Drexler and other veteran guards, were the most muted of his career. Petrovic sparkled in his native Yugoslavia, then in European leagues, receiving the designation, “Mozart of the Hardwood”. His craftiness with the ball was good, but his shooting was legendary. Basketball hadn’t invented a shot that Petro couldn’t hit. Pull-ups were like candy to him, three-pointers like free throws.
Understanding his potential, the Blazers drafted Petrovic in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. He would not join the team until 1989. He played just 12.6 minutes per game in his rookie year, but he averaged 46% from the arc, 48.5% overall. Appropriate to his nickname, watching him hit jumpers was like watching a master at work.
The Blazers ascended through the NBA ranks in Petro’s second and third seasons. Intent on chasing rings, they didn’t have time or patience to put up with his learning curve, or encourage him through it. In January, 1991, they’d trade him in a three-way deal, exporting him to the New Jersey Nets for Phoenix Suns legend Walter Davis. By that point, Davis’ spectacular days were long by him. He ended up making almost no difference to Portland’s fate. Meanwhile Petrovic went on to average 21 and 22 points in his two full seasons with the Nets, shooting north of 50% from the field, 44.4% and 44.9% from the arc. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 1993, just before his untimely death.
It’s hard to separate the desire to want to see Petrovic play again with the absolutely heart-longing urge to just SEE Petrovic again, but both are appropriate, and that’s also true of other beloved players like Maurice Lucas and Jerome Kersey.
Were Petrovic able to take the court in his prime for these Blazers, his distance shooting would make him an instant star in the modern NBA. That, and watching him work so hard for shots that other people wouldn’t even dare to take, make Petro an easy addition into this “Who would you want to see?” bracket.
So which will it be? If you had to choose between Rasheed Wallace and Drazen Petrovic to play one more year, which would it be? Vote in the comments or on Twitter!