Top five draft busts in Portland Trail Blazers history

Can’t win ‘em all

Next up in our Moments In Time – Northwest sports series is a fun flashback of Rip City NBA draft picks.

If Portland Trail Blazers fans have learned anything throughout the years, it’s that things don’t always go as planned when it comes to the NBA draft.

Portland has been hit hard in the past when it comes to draft day. Sometimes it’s bad luck. Sometimes it’s bad decision making.

Either way, there are plenty of cases to choose from when it comes to busts in Trail Blazers history.

Martell Webster, No. 6 Overall (2005)

Martell Webster was drafted by the Blazers in 2005. (Photo: Kathy Willens/AP)

Martell Webster was drafted by the Blazers in 2005. (Photo: Kathy Willens/AP)

Martell Webster was an on-again, off-again role player with the Trail Blazers. He went through hot streaks and shooting slumps during his five years with the team, but the latter was far more popular, as he averaged just 8.5 points.

Webster was a decent role player during his time in Portland, but unfortunately, fans don’t want role players with the sixth-overall pick. The Seattle native was supposed to be a deadly shooter from day one, and while that proved to be true when he caught fire, he never fully developed into a consistent threat.

The biggest issue with the selection of Webster is that Portland management missed a golden opportunity to draft true superstars. Before dealing the No. 3 pick to the Utah Jazz, the team had the chance to select Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Even after trading the pick, the Blazers could have taken Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger or David Lee.

Webster has gone on to find a role with his third NBA team—the Washington Wizards—but he’s yet to truly justify the sixth-overall selection from 2005.

Sebastian Telfair, No. 13 Overall (2004)

There was a long stretch of time when the Trail Blazers were looking for their next point guard of the future. Some argue that the search began when Terry Porter left and didn’t end until Damian Lillard was drafted in 2012. However, the more reasonable time frame begins when Damon Stoudamire left in 2005.

Regardless of when it began, the truth is that the team tried a number of different options. One of them was Sebastian Telfair, and in hindsight, we can say that the Telfair experiment was a complete failure.

Telfair was drafted straight out of high school with the 13th-overall pick. He was an absolute superstar in the making, as he averaged 33.2 points per game, and Slam Magazine even went as far as to say that he and LeBron James were going to “rule the world.”

It’s safe to say that one of those players is currently ruling the basketball world, and one of them is not.

LaRue Martin, No. 1 Overall (1972)

If LaRue Martin is known for anything in Rip City, it’s beginning a startling trend of highly touted big men simply not working out as planned.

Martin, a 6’11” center, was taken with the first pick in the 1972 draft. He was chosen over both Bob McAdoo (who couldn’t come to contract terms with Portland) and Julius Erving largely because he outplayed Bill Walton in the 1971-72 NCAA season.

After four disappointing years (5.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG), Martin retired in 1976—one season before the Blazers won their only NBA championship.

Sam Bowie, No. 2 Overall (1984)

Sam Bowie is known in NBA circles for one thing—being drafted second overall in 1984; one spot ahead of the legendary Michael Jordan.

This is the legacy Greg Oden left behind.

This is the legacy Greg Oden left behind in PDX.

Bowie’s career lasted 10 seasons, but he was never able to meet the lofty expectations that were tossed his way. He did manage to play in 70-plus games three different times, but only one of those times came in Portland.

The center was traded to the New Jersey nets after four years, having played in just 63 games during his final three seasons with the team.

Greg Oden, No. 1 Overall (2007)

Many people consider Sam Bowie to be the biggest bust in Trail Blazers history because the team missed out on Michael Jordan. However, the big man played 76 games in his rookie season, almost totaling the number of games Greg Oden has seen in six years.

The big story with Oden is injuries. Had he have been able to stay on the court, we could have been looking at the game’s next great center.

Unfortunately for the organization that drafted him, that wasn’t the case, as he never had time to develop and learn how to play at the NBA level.

The other story, as it is with every bust in NBA history, is who else was left on the board. Portland infamously took Bowie over Jordan in 1984, and it made the same mistake in 2007 choosing Oden over Kevin Durant.

The world will never know what would have happened if the Blazers had made different decisions, but then again, every move helps mold the future—a future that looks bright with Damian Lillard aiming for stardom.


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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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