Portland Trail Blazers: Rod Strickland, Point Guard (1992-96, 2001)
Despite being picked 19th overall in the 1988 NBA Draft, Rod Strickland would surprise many with his production early in his career. Over his first four seasons split between two teams, the All-Rookie member averaged 11.4 points, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Once he hit the free agent market in 1992, Strickland was coming off consecutive seasons in which he averaged 13.8 points per game. At 26 years of age, his next team would ideally be one to fully unleash his potential with an increased role offensively.
In his search, Strickland wound up a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, who were coming off their second NBA Finals loss in three seasons, this time at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in six games. Following a so-so first year, he would break out over the next three years, increasing his productivity to the cusp of NBA All-Star status.
From 1993 to 1996, Strickland averaged 18.2 points, 9.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals a night. While not the largest of sample sizes, those numbers compare favorably to some of the all-time greats at the position like Chris Paul and Isiah Thomas.
Portland would continue its playoff streak with Strickland in town, but failed to make it out of the first round in each of his first four years with the team — a mid-season signing after being released in 2001 had him briefly return for 21 games.
Had Strickland arrived at a more favorable time for the Blazers, he may have been able to help them get over the championship hurdle. It was the place where he had some of his best seasons — including a career-high in points per game in 1994-95 — and was clearly the right choice for a player looking to assert himself as a force in the NBA.