In spirit of Michael Jordan turning 50 this Sunday (February 17th), here are some of the worst decisions made by the Portland Trail Blazers during draft night.
By the way, I am only dating this back to that 1984 NBA Draft (four years before I was born).
Number 1: Same Bowie over MJ 1984
Needless to say this is by far the worst decision the Blazers have ever made. His Airness is widely known as the greatest basketball player of all time – Greatest Of All Time. This is obviously number one. Multiple leg injuries limited Bowie’s career and he never lived up to what Portland was hoping for. Portland had Clyde Drexler at the time and Michael Jordan was not in their plans. Let’s not forget, Houston also passed on MJ, but instead of a bust, they drafted another great player in Hakeem Olajuwon. A former executive told the Oregonian in a reported statement a few months back that the Blazers would have drafted Charles Barkley, not MJ, if they didn’t go with Bowie. All three of these guys later teamed up (Drexler, Olajuwon, and Barkley) and still couldn’t beat Jordan. This decision is still talked about today.
Number 2: Greg Oden over Kevin Durant 2007
Kevin Durant has turned into a superstar scorer. He is now one of the best players in the NBA. Durant led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the finals last year in a losing effort to the Miami Heat. The Thunder, formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics, have made the playoffs the last three years behind Kevin Durant’s prolific scoring. Durant has improved his all-around game over the last few years while Greg Oden has increased his total injuries. Multiple leg injuries has limited Oden’s career to just 82 games. Sound familiar?
Oden was a very talented young big man, when healthy. There is no doubt about that. He was getting better, too, and some of the best basketball of his career before that final fall on the court at the Rose Garden in a game against Houston. I remember watching as he attempted a block on Aaron Brooks. He went down clenching his knee. As he laid there, in obviously pain, the crowd began to chant his name. That is the last time they will be doing that. He hasn’t played since.
With the way he was playing that year you can see as to why teams are requesting his services lately. If you haven’t heard, Oden is looking to make a comeback next season. Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Indiana, New Orleans, and San Antonio are all expected suitors for Oden. Whoever lands Oden won’t be nearly as dependent as this city and organization was when they drafted Oden with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Number 3: 2005, Trading the #3 Pick for #6, #27, and next year’s #30
This was basically a Deron Williams for Martell Webster trade. The Blazers also received Linas Kleiza (27) and Joel Freeland (2006-#30) in the deal. Joel just joined the team this year from overseas and Linas Kleiza never played for them, he was later traded to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Jarrett Jack. Chris Paul was also on the board until he was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets with the 4th pick. Instead of drafting one of what turned out to be two star point guards, the Blazers decided to take a chance on Webster, a star High School player out of Seattle Prep. Martel struggled to stay healthy and consistent after they signed him to a four-year deal that they eventually got out of via draft day trade (see notable mentions). Martell was as inconsistent as they come. The Blazers have a recent history of getting players like that, by the way.
A player who was available with that 6th pick was Andrew Bynum. He ended up going 10th to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Number 4: 2008 Draft
There were a few mistakes in this draft. I will add that the Blazers did get Nicolas Batum out of this draft, so it wasn’t a complete bust.
The Blazers traded Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts, and the draft rights to Bradnon Rush to the Indiana Pacers for Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu. It turned out to be a fairly even trade overall. Although right now Jarrett Jack seems to be playing better than Bayless, it was still fairly even. The part that was a mistake is not drafting big guys like Roy Hibbert or JaVale McGee. They had an injured Greg Oden, why not take a guy as a backup plan? Easier to say that now, I guess. There was also Kosta Koufos, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Pekovic, and DeAndre Jordan. This draft was loaded with big men. But, the mistake of not taking Deron Williams or Chris Paul came back to haunt this team as they tried to fill the void of a solid point guard. Bayless didn’t pan out. They traded him and started the whole point guard process all over again. I think they finally found it this year.
The Blazers backup plan: Omer Asik. You know what? Let’s trade him too. He is 5th in the NBA in rebounds this season. This team could use a 7-footer with his rebounding ability.
Number 5: 2004 Draft
With the #13 pick, the Blazers selected Sebastian Telfair. He was a great player in high school. Unfortunately, it never really translated to the NBA. They missed out on some good players in Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, and Jameer Nelson – all going shortly after Telfair.
By taking Telfair, the Blazers didn’t feel that they needed another high pick on a point guard the following year (see number 3: 2005). This draft pick has set the tone for the past decade of not having a legitimate point guard. The NBA game has become very favorable to point guards, same as the NFL has been with quarterbacks, by adjusting rules. The NBA established the defensive 3 seconds rule, and started heavily enforcing the no hand-checking rule. This has allowed point guards to do what they please so to speak. This is why the guy the Blazers have now, Damian Lillard, will flourish and soon become an all-star.
Runner-up: Nolan Smith over Kenneth Faried 2011
Faried is a monster. If this wasn’t just their second year it might have been listed in the top-5. Faried is posting double-doubles frequently these days. Nolan Smith gets double-digit minutes off the bench, it he’s lucky. I read that Coach K advised the Blazers to take Nolan over Faried… thanks Coach K!
Qyntel Woods 2002. Whoever thought drafting a player out of a community college (in the first round?) was a good idea, well, they’re an idiot.
Luke Babbitt 2010. I would rather have Martell Webster back. Luke Babbitt hasn’t been able to show much of anything in NBA games.
Meyers Leonard 2012. I know, this is way too early. I don’t care. I am ready to dub Leonard as a bust. Watching him play out there is frustrating. I thought he was going to play strong and confident out there and use his athleticism to his advantage. He in fact plays with the complete opposite mind-set and is absolutely horrendous defensively. I think he gets his defensive woes from J.J. Hickson, though.
There is kind of a pattern here. Multiple draft picks from a year before prevented them from drafting a player who would later become a star in the NBA. There was Clyde a year before Jordan, Telfair a year before Williams or Paul, Roy a year before Durant, and Oden a year before a whole crop of centers who are still actually playing.
Jason Hartzog is on Twitter. Follow him at @JHartsLife