Trail Mix: Ranking system says 2000 Blazers the best Blazers team of All-Time
The Golden State Warriors are amazing. For as long as I’ve watched basketball, they’re the best team I’ve ever seen. So what if I’ve only had League Pass for four years!
They’re locked in a tight series against a Houston Rockets team putting up a better fight than many had expected they would. But this fact, that the Warriors are amazing, inspired ESPN’s Nate Silver spin-off website FiveThirtyEight.com, to rank the best teams of all time. The Warriors came in fourth in the “Elo” rankings which weights wins, margin of victory in the regular season and playoffs, and takes points away for losses. Teams are given extra points for upset wins and winning by more points.
Of course, the best team in their rankings were the 72-10 95-96 Bulls.
So who was the best Trail Blazers team of All-Time according to the Elo rankings? Not the ’77 title team, not the ’77-78 team that dominated until Walton broke his foot, not the 90’s teams who made the Finals, but the 1999-2000 Blazers who lost in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.
This is likely very surprising to some given how later events characterized the group of players that had, according to this ranking, the best season in franchise history. But the tape don’t lie. Only one Blazers team had more wins than the 99-2000 team while another team tied them with 59 wins.
The ultimate choke in Game 7 and the “Jail Blazers” era that followed have made those teams incredibly polarizing. Many Blazers fans admire that team because they accomplished more than any Blazers team has since. While others found them a disgrace because of their off-court problems. But if anything, the Elo rankings definitely reinforces that team was very good and put them in a different light. Well, let’s not kid ourselves, probably not. But those guys were good!
Speaking of historically great Blazers, ESPN Insider’s Kevin Pelton ranked Portland’s late-80’s and early 90’s backcourt of Clyde Drexer and Terry Porter as the greatest of all-time using is WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) metric.
1. Terry Porter/Clyde Drexler
Team: Portland Trail Blazers Score: 134.2 Years: 9+ (1985-86 to 1994-95)
All-Star appearances: 10 (Drexler 8, Porter 2) Championships: 0
The Blazers’ duo probably isn’t the first one fans imagine when they consider great backcourts, but few were more balanced. Drexler was one of the league’s best all-around shooting guards and an All-Star fixture, but Porter was no slouch himself, making a pair of All-Star Games during a period when the Western Conference was loaded at point guard. Only one other combo — No. 2 on this list — had as high a rating for its second-best player.
This list was inspired by Golden State’s backcourt duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Despite the fact that they came up short in their quest to win a title, the advanced numbers help put Drexler and Porter in a different light. Obviously, they’re revered in the Northwest but to the NBA consuming public, they’re easily forgotten when compared to duos with more rings.
Want some news about the current Trail Blazers? Well, it’s May and there’s not really a lot of new stuff to re-hash. But Terry Stotts talked about Portland’s offseason during a recent appearance on the SiriusXM NBA radio station with Joel Meyers and Brian Scalabrine. Stotts expressed his confidence in Neil Olshey and briefly discussed free agency.
I was on the Blazersedge podcast with Chris Lucia talking about what it’s like to cover the team as a beat reporter, if that interests you for any reason.
Treats from around the NBA
Here are some items of more general NBA news.
- ESPN.com’s Chicago Bulls reporter Nick Friedell put together an exhaustive and well-detailed history of the deterioration of the relationship between Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and their front office. If you’ve got 20 minutes to a half hour of reading time, this is a pretty interesting read. The Bulls, since they’ve been owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, have had a very tumultuous history with head coaches. If the topic of head coaches interacting with the Bulls brass interests you beyond Friedell’s piece I would suggest reading Phil Jackson’s book “Eleven Rings” and “The Jordan Rules” by Sam Smith.
- It’s big news today that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak thinks that the 2015-16 season will be the end of the line for superstar Kobe Bryant. NBA.com’s David Aldridge quoted Kupchak saying the same thing in December of 2014. Kobe also did a Showtime documentary called “Muse,” which ends with him saying he’s okay with his career and how he can sit at the same table of his muses Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. The farewell tour has been going basically ever since he tore his achilles.
- We have an inspiring piece of reporting from KGW’s Katherine Cook who interviewed Portland’s biggest Houston Rockets fan, Sam Day. Day has an aggressive form of cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma, and he fell in love with the Rockets while getting treatment in Houston. And it turns out that the Rockets are big fans of his. Not gonna lie, I got a little misty-eyed when I watched it.
- The Atlanta Hawks are on the offensive in protecting themselves from “The Based God’s Curse.” For those unfamiliar with the curse, Buzzfeed’s Rawan Eewshah summarized the history of the curse. The rapper Lil’ B, also known as “The Based God,” has cursed Kevin Durant forever. Last night, James Harden fell victim to the curse for imitating Lil’ B’s cooking dance, which The Based God said was only a warning. Lil’ B is also a Warriors fan and tried out for their Santa Cruz D-League team (very rare footage of the tryouts). The Hawks aren’t taking any chances and I don’t blame them and it has nothing to do with me picking the Hawks to win in 7. Even their in-house hip-hop organist is taking requests from The Based God himself. Shout-out to Ellen Degeneres! I’m volunteering the Blazer Banter blog to be part of Lil’ B’s Task Force just to be on the right side of history. The Based God is not to be messed with.
Have a great and safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone.