Portland Trail Blazers Fantasy Draft – Pre-1990s Edition

PISCATAWAY, NJ - CIRCA 1977: Bill Walton #32 of the Portland Trail Blazers in action against the New Jersey Nets during an NBA basketball game circa 1977 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. Walton played for the Trailblazers from 1974 - 79. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Today marks Week 4 of the Oregon Sports News Portland Trail Blazers Fantasy Draft. In Week 1, we drafted three fantasy teams using only Rip City players from the 2010s. In Week 2, it was the 2000s. Week 3 saw us focus on the 1990s, and this time, we’re bucking the trend and expanding the player pool to the Blazers’ first two decades. 

With the pre-1990s in mind, the idea here is as follows:

Oregon Sports News set out to draft and build three full rosters using players at their “Trail Blazers peaks” from the 1970s and ‘80s decades. That means anyone who played a single game for Portland between 1970-71 and 1988-89 is eligible. It also means that eligible players are at their subjective “best days with the Blazers” from that time frame, so skill sets, leadership, basketball IQ—it all applies, along with stamina, durability, and other factors from the period. 

To further set the parameters, our general managers are building rosters as if they’re competing for a title before the 1990s. Up to the task of drafting these squads is OSN’s Casey Mabbott, Arran Gimba and Bryant Knox. 

Through randomization, Gimba received the No. 1 overall pick while Knox nabbed No. 2 and Mabbott took No. 3. OSN used a snake-style draft and required each GM to select 10 active players, 1 injured reserve and a head coach along the way. 

Like players, coaches must have been with the Blazers at some point during the pre-‘90s decades to be eligible. For both players and coaches, style matters! But filling a traditional point guard-through-center rotation was never required. 

Arran Gimba’s Team

Rd (Overall)Player
1 (1)Bill Walton
2 (6)Geoff Petrie
3 (7)Mychal Thompson
4 (12)Calvin Natt
5 (13)Kevin Duckworth
6 (18)Darnell Valentine
7 (19)John Johnson
8 (24)Jack Ramsay (Coach0
9 (25)Dave Twardzik
10 (30)Johnny Davis
11 (31)Sam Bowie
12 (36)Ron Brewer
13 (37)Dale Schlueter
14 (42)Steve Hawes (IR)

Starting 5:

  •  Darnell Valentine
  •  Geoff Petrie
  •  Calvin Natt
  •  Mychael Thompson
  •  Bill Walton

Reserves: Kevin Duckworth, John Johnson, Dave Twardzik, Johnny Davis, Sam Bowie, Ron Brewer, Dale Schuleter

Injury Reserve: Steve Hawes

Head Coach: Dr. Jack Ramsay

Draft Strategy Going In:

With the number one pick (finally!), I was able to build my team around the best Portland Trail Blazer of all-time – Bill Walton (yes, you can start that debate. He’s the one with the ring). He does everything correct on the court. He can shoot, pass, play excellent defense, he is the total package. In the pre-90s, it was all about the big men. I’ve got three of the best who have ever put on a Blazers uniform in Walton, Mychael Thompson, and Kevin Duckworth (yes, Duck is coming off the bench). I also have Sam Bowie, which, laugh all you want, he ain’t starting. He’ll deliver productive minutes. Besides, if he does go down, I’ve got 300 centers to assist.

My guards, admittedly, aren’t the flashiest but they are smart as hell and will get the job done. Darnell Valentine, Geoff Petrie, Johnny Davis, Dave Twardzik. They’ll be raining jump shots but, more importantly, passing it to Calvin Natt, Thompson, and Walton.

How Strategy Changed/Why Your Team Will Dominate: 

OK, I probably should have drafted Terry Porter before Mychael Thompson. But the Twin Towers temptation was too good. Two #1 picks, together, at the same time. That did weaken my guard situation. After drafting the legendary John Johnson (legendary for his great name), I had no choice but to grab Jack Ramsay. Did I draft him a little early? Probably. But he is also the only Blazers coach with a title. I also drafted him for the wardrobe.

Towards the end of the draft, I really struggled trying to remember who half these players were. Probably should have done a little more research. 

But how will my team dominate? Fundamentals. I’ve got Mr. Fundamental in Jack Ramsay and his star student, Bill Walton. Two of the smartest people to ever grace the Memorial Coliseum. Cuts, screens, you name it. Defense? We’ve got that. We are playing without the three-point line, right?

Bryant Knox’s Team

Rd (Overall)Player
1 (2)Clyde Drexler
2 (5)Maurice Lucas
3 (8)Terry Porter
4 (11)Jerome Kersey
5 (14)Leroy Ellis
6 (17)Kelvin Ransey
7 (20)Jim Barnett
8 (23)Larry Steele
9 (26)Bob Gross
10 (29)Wayne Cooper
11 (32)Steve Johnson
12 (35)Billy Ray Bates
13 (38)Rick Adelman (Coach)
14 (41)Steve Colter

Starting 5: 

  • Terry Porter
  • Clyde Drexler
  • Jerome Kersey 
  • Maurice Lucas
  • Leroy Ellis

Reserves: Kelvin Ransey, Jim Barnett, Larry Steele, Bob Gross, Wayne Cooper, Steve Johnson, Billy Ray Bates

Injury Reserve: Steve Colter

Head Coach: Rick Adelman

Draft Strategy Going In: Having the No. 2 overall pick provided me a mental luxury: I was going to get either Bill Walton or Clyde Drexler, and I didn’t have to be the one to make that decision. That was good enough in my book, so whichever one I landed would shape how I formed the starting lineup. 

How Strategy Changed/Why Your Team Will Dominate: Clyde Drexler was the first piece toward building a late-80s Blazers juggernaut. With my second-round pick, Terry Porter was available…but I decided I was comfortable taking Geoff Petrie later if needed, so I immediately changed course and gave The Glide an Enforcer in Maurice Lucas. Then, wouldn’t you know it, TP and Jerome Kersey—the two ideal players to actually complement my star—both slid to the third and fourth rounds anyway. 

That right there, ladies and gents, is a Big 4 for the (pre-’90s) ages: Terry, Clyde, Jerome, Maurice. Leroy Ellis rounds out our starting 5, having played his career-best and only Trail Blazers season with the team way back in 1970. So we’re not exactly sticking to the ‘80s formula, but at 15.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game with a 6’10” frame, we’re happy to make the exception. 

After that, I felt increasingly comfortable throughout the draft that I could land Rick Adleman, the coach I needed, way down in my penultimate draft spot, so I stocked up on big players like Wayne Cooper, bigger names like Bobby Gross and Larry Steele, names you might not remember in Kelvin Ransey and Steve Johnson, and a name you’ll never forget in Billy Ray Bates. This is the team to beat. This group together would’ve been a PROBLEM ?????

Casey Mabbott’s Team

Rd (Overall)Player
1 (3)Sidney Wicks
2 (4)Kiki Vandeweghe
3 (9)Jim Paxson
4 (10)Lionel Hollins
5 (15)Tom Owens
6 (16)Kermit Washington
7 (21)Rick Roberson
8 (22)Fat Lever
9 (27)Kenny Carr
10 (28)Rick Adelman
11 (33)Lloyd Neal
12 (34)Lenny Wilkens
13 (39)Lenny Wilkens (Coach)
14 (40)LaRue Martin

Starting 5:

  • Lionel Hollins 
  • Jim Paxson 
  • Kiki Vandeweghe 
  • Sidney Wicks 
  • Tom Owens

Reserves: Kermit Washington, Rock roberson, Fat Lever, Kenny Carr, Rick Adelman, Lloyd Neal, Lenny Wilkens

Injured Reserve: LaRue Martin

Head Coach: Lenny Wilkens

Draft Strategy Going In: Assemble a tough, tall, and well rounded team that can win in the 1970s and 1980s. Since the Blazers weren’t around until 1970, we can ignore the NBA prior to that and focus on the 70’s and 80’s title teams. Put together a roster of athletic and fundamentally sound players that have a desire to show their might against some of the greatest dynasties ever assembled. Since the three-point line didn’t exist for 9/10s of the 70’s, we don’t really need to worry about drafting or defending distance shooters, as the added stripe was more of a gimmick even in the 1980s, not gaining popularity until the 1990s when kids who had grown up with the added stripe started joining the league. Danny Ainge and Joe Dumars were the only players making multiple treys a game and playing on Finals teams in this era, so we’re not going to worry about it. 

Going into the third and fourth picks, our goal will be to start with the two most talented players still left on the board and build out the roster from there, prioritizing players who were gifted enough to play multiple positions rather than chasing a single player or position and making them fit the lineup. 

How Strategy Changed/Why Your Team Will Dominate: 

Walton and Drexler were off the board before we got to our draft pick, so we took Blazers great Sidney Wicks and All-Star Kiki Vandeweghe as our core players. Thinking we’d have a shot at a star center in Thompson or Duckworth in the middle rounds, we were more than surprised to see them both go to the same roster that already had Walton. That’s an embarrassment of riches if we’ve ever seen it. That team ended with five legit centers, and while this franchise has a long history of injured centers, I think they have it covered. We went with Walton-Lite (Mr Tom Owens) as the starting center, and have Portland’s versions of Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes (Rick Roberson and Lloyd Neal) backing him up. 

Starting at guard will be Lionel Hollins and Jim Paxson, with Fat Lever, Rick Adelman, and Lenny Wilkens taking turns backing them up. Kermit Washington and Kenny Carr are available if any of the forwards or centers need a breather, and the emergency player is the one and only LaRue Martin, the Blazers’ original emergency player. 

Coached by hall of famer Lenny Wilkens (when he’s not playing), this team has the size, toughness, scoring ability, defense, and championship pedigree to dominate either decade. Whether it’s the Knicks, Lakers, Celtics, Bullets, Sonics, 76ers, or Pistons, this team has what it takes to take on anyone. 

No matter which team is lucky enough to share the court with them, this team will be bad news–bad news for any team having to play them. Bring it on. It’s on like Donkey Kong.