When you think about the most attractive destinations, the Portland Trail Blazers do not exactly stand out. They’re not what you’d consider to be a big-market team, and as such, they have not always been successful when it comes to luring the best available free agents in the market.
Nonetheless, this team has actually had a relatively successful history when it comes to success in the free agency market. There have been no Kawhi Leonards or LeBron Jameses, but still, the Blazers have had their fair share of success. Today we take a look at five of the best free-agent signings in Portland Trail Blazers history.
Probably only the most avid of Blazers supporters will know about Dave Twardzik and his contributions to the franchise. He signed with Portland as a free agent in 1976 and spent four successful seasons with the team until retiring in 1980.
In his first season with the Blazers, Twardzik helped the team to their one and only NBA title in franchise history. That year, the 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals in 26.2 minutes played per contest.
Twardzik made one All-Star appearance in his career, but this was during his time with the Virginia Squires — prior to signing with the Blazers.
Kenny Anderson, himself a one-time All-Star as well, was a Blazer for just a season and a half. It was a short-lived stint, but he made it count. Anderson made such an impact in the team, that we can’t help but include him on our list here today.
Anderson signed with the Blazers as a free agent in 1996. In his only full season with Portland, he arguably had the best campaign of his entire career. In 82 games played during the 1996-97 season, Anderson put up 17.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 2.0 steals, while also connecting on 1.6 triples per game on a 36.1-percent clip.
Portland went 49-33 that year to lock a place in the playoffs but fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, 3-1 in the first round.
The following season, Anderson was included in a trade deal to the Toronto Raptors that centered around Damon Stoudamire.
Fondly remembered for his awesome dreadlocks, Brian Grant was also a highly-reliable big during his stint with the Blazers. This began in 1997 when the former eighth overall pick signed with Portland as a free agent, after spending the first three seasons of his career with the Sacramento Kings. The Blazers went on three consecutive postseason runs during Grant’s time with the team, which included two trips to the Western Conference Finals.
In August 2000, Grant was traded to the Miami Heat as part of a blockbuster deal that saw Shawn Kemp making the move to Portland.
Wesley Matthews came into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2009. After a rather uneventful debut campaign with the Utah Jazz, the 6-foot-4 swingman signed with Portland as a free agent. This was where he began to shine.
Jesse Cinquini ·
Michael Corvo ·
Matthews became a starter in just his first season with the Blazers, and he averaged 15.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 steals, while also knocking down 1.9 3-pointers per game on a highly-efficient 40.7-percent clip.
Matthews was a pivotal piece for Portland during the LaMarcus Aldridge era, as well as during the onset of the Damian Lillard years. Unfortunately for the team, Matthews became such a sought-after name when he entered free agency in 2015, that they were unable to keep him. Salary cap constraints factored in on Matthews’ exit. He ended up signing a hefty deal with the Dallas Mavericks, and that marked the end of his five-year spell in Portland.
Last but not least, we have 6-foot-3 guard Rod Strickland. The former 19th overall pick spent the first four years of his career with the New York Knicks and the San Antonio Spurs before signing with Portland as a free agent during the 1992 offseason.
It could be argued that the Blazers had Strickland during his prime. In four seasons in Portland, he averaged 17.0 points (on 47.3 percent from the floor), 4.5 rebounds, 8.6 assists, and 1.7 steals. He was one of the best playmakers of his time, and he often headlined several Blazers news.
Ironically, Strickland had his best individual season right after the Blazers traded him to the Washington Bullets in 1996. Strickland ended up leading the league in assists that term, while also being named in the All-NBA squad. Nevertheless, Portland got Rasheed Wallace in the Strickland trade, so it obviously wasn’t all that bad. Even upon his departure, Strickland was able to contribute to the franchise indirectly, which makes him a winner in any Blazers faithful’s book.