The 2007 season was meant to be the beginning of a golden era for the Portland Trail Blazers, a genuine chance to break their 30-year championship drought with a newly formed big three with the potential to dominate the competition.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, they were the foundations of what could have been an extremely successful period of basketball in Portland.
A possible golden era for the franchise was never to be, the three stars only ever played a total of 62 games together, less than a full regular season.
The most interesting statistic of those 62 games they played in together was that the Trail Blazers were extremely successful with a record of 52-10. With such an impressive record together, it’s clear that he Blazers were on to something with this setup, they certainly played with a lot of chemistry and talent. It’s one of the biggest what ifs’ in NBA history, what could have happened if these three players avoided injury and stuck together in Portland.
“Me, Brandon and Greg,” Aldridge said. “At the dinner table, I just remember seeing a vision of us three together, and it was something special. I felt like we were so young, we had so much time to build chemistry, so much time to grow and get better. I just saw all three of us having multiple rings. At least one ring. But it never came together. It never panned out.”
The creation of the planned big three began on June 28th, 2007, when the Trail Blazers used their first overall pick in the NBA draft to select Greg Oden. It was an interesting choice considering they passed on Kevin Durant and seeing what KD has accomplished will really frustrate Blazers fans knowing what they missed out on.
Before Oden struggled with Knee injuries during late 2007, he looked like a perfect person to pick up in the draft. While playing at Ohio State, Greg Oden dominated and along with Durant, the two became the first pair of freshmen to be voted onto the All-American First Team since 1990. Oden also won the award of the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. His statistics in his last season before being drafted into the NBA showed just how strong player he really was, 15.7 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, 3.3 blocks per game in 29 minutes of game time.
Unfortunately, his outstanding form in college never lasted when it came to the big time in the NBA due to multiple injuries that ended Oden’s career in Portland short, just 82 games in a Blazers uniform over a period of six years between 2007 and 2012. The last game that Greg Oden would play was in 2009 on the 5th December against the Houston Rockets that he injured his knee almost immediately at the start of the match. The next three years, Oden was stuck sitting on the sidelines as he never played another match before being waived by the Blazers.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy both arrived in Portland the year before, even though the two players were originally selected by the Bulls and Timberwolves, they both ended up at the Trail Blazers through trades on Draft Night between the franchises.
Brandon Roy was the major standout in his opening year in the NBA, 16.8 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game and 4 assists per game was enough to win him the title of Rookie of the Year. Roy wasn’t done there though, he had three consecutive all-star appearances in what was what a very tough Western Conference. At the height of his powers, Brandon Roy was on his way to becoming one of the most successful players in the league.
Unfortunately for Roy and the Trail Blazers, it was injury that ruined his career and stopped Portland from having a genuine chance for a shot at a championship. On the 11th of April, 2010, Brandon Roy suffered an injury to his right knee, it eventually caused a lack of cartilage in both knees which led to an arthroscopic surgery on both knees at the start of 2011.
We would never see Roy at his ultimate best ever again, the young star guard was forced to retire due to his knees before the start of the 2011-12 season.
“This is a very difficult and painful day,” Roy said in a statement released by the team. “I love the game, I love the Portland Trail Blazers and I love our fans, but after consulting with my doctors, I will seek a determination that I’ve suffered a career ending injury, pursuant to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.”
“My family and health are most important to me and in the end this decision was about them and my quality of life,” Roy said in the joint statement released by the team. “I want to thank (owner) Paul Allen, (team president) Larry Miller, Coach (Nate) McMillan, the entire Trail Blazers organization and our fans for all of their love and support during my time in Portland. It was a great ride.”
Entering that 2012 season, LaMarcus Aldridge was the last one remaining of the trio that was expected to bring glory to the Trail Blazers. From this stage on, it became Aldridge’s team, he would play four more seasons with Portland where the team played in two playoff series. It was always rumored that Aldridge felt unappreciated at the club, for the most part of his career, he was never in the main spotlight.
First, he was overshadowed by Brandon Roy who had an incredible start to his career before injury took over as Aldridge took a back seat to Zach Randolph in his rookie year. When the Blazers struck gold with Damien Lillard joining the team, LaMarcus Aldridge was again not in the main focus even though he became an All Star for the third year in a row during Lillard’s second year in the league.
The real question is how far could the Trail Blazers have gone with Roy and Oden completely fit and healthy. They were a huge chance of winning a championship with the record they had when all three were playing together on the court.
The what if about drafting Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden is also something that Portland fans would forever wonder about. The fact that KD has now moved on from the side that drafted him to the super team that is the Golden State Warriors may at least relieve the Trail Blazers fans knowing that there’s no guarantee that Durant would have hanged around long in Portland.
The injuries of Roy and Oden were essentially career-ending injuries as the two never returned to their previously excellent form.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know how the Blazers would have gone with a fully fit side, it remains as one of the biggest ‘what if’s’ in NBA history.