Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian
A fan climbs on the hoop in celebration of the Trail Blazers 1977 NBA title.
In the 1970-71 NBA season, a city in the Pacific Northwest, Portland, got to call the Trail Blazers their team. Witnessing greats such as Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, Rasheed Wallace, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge ride through the Memorial Coliseum and then the Rose Garden, to name a few.
If you weren’t familiar with the team that’s going into the 2019-2020 season celebrating its 50th year as a franchise in Portland, then sit down and buckle up because you’re in for a ride.
Entering his 8th season in the NBA out of Weber State, Damian Lillard is one of those very Blazer greats right before your eyes. If you are one of the few that don’t believe it, listen to this.
Since being drafted 6th overall and winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2012-13, the point guard has averaged 23.5 points per game on 43% shooting, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 6.3 assists per game (per basketball reference). He’s been selected to 4 All-Star games, the All-NBA third team (1x), All-NBA second team (2x), and All-NBA first team (1x). He has been able to carry the Blazers into the postseason 6 of the 7 years he’s been in the league.
Let’s compare that to other players that were selected with the 6th pick throughout NBA history, shall we? After going through the list, I’ve narrowed it down to compare Lillard to these 6 players.
Danilo Gallinari (15.9ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.0apg)
Antoine Walker (17.5ppg, 7.7rpg, 3.5apg)
Kenny Smith (12.8ppg, 2.0rpg, 5.5apg)
Lenny Wilkens (16.5ppg, 4.7rpg, 6.7apg)
Brandon Roy (18.8ppg, 4.3prg, 4.7apg)
Larry Bird (24.3ppg, 10.0rpg, 6.3apg)
Easier put, Lillard is already one of the best players ever selected with the 6th pick. If he isn’t considered one of the Blazer greats in your book already, he’s on pace to become known as THE best Trail Blazer when all is said and done.
Let’s mention another player that will be among the Blazer greats when his career is over, Christian James McCollum.
Known throughout the league as an efficient ball-handler who can score anywhere on the floor, he’s become a weapon in Terry Stotts offense. CJ has been able to improve his game every year since coming into the league in 2013.
After his first 2 years in Portland (2013 & 2014) where he only averaged 12.5 and 15.7 minutes per game respectively, he got an enormous uptick in minutes the following year. With that uptick and more responsibilities, he, as an NBA player flourished right in front of our eyes. Since the 2014-15 season, McCollum has averaged 21.5 points per game shooting 48% from the field in 34.9 minutes per game. He’s just getting started.
A supporting cast of Jusuf Nurkić, Zach Collins, Mario Hezonja and Anfernee Simons, with some experienced veterans in Rodney Hood, Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside, Pau Gasol and Anthony Tolliver, it’s safe to expect Portland to be competing for a top seed in an action-packed Western Conference.
With Lillard at 29 years young and CJ at 28, and a team built around those 2, we all get to witness possibly the best Trail Blazers basketball you’ve seen to date this upcoming 2019-2020 season.
Can you think of a better way to celebrate 50 years of Rip City?
Comment below and tell us if you think this is the most anticipated regular season you can remember.