Portland Trail Blazers: Five non-Jordan, non-Durant stars the Blazers missed on drafting

Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
4 of 5
Portland Trail Blazers
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

No. 4: Al Jefferson, Prentiss High School

Year: 2004

Original Pick: Sebastian Telfair, Abraham Lincoln High School

You might’ve noticed that pothole we just hit. There’s a steep incline in between missing out on Hall of Famers like Larry Bird and Julius Erving and someone like Al Jefferson. And that’s no slight. Jefferson was an All-NBA teamer in his prime (once, but it still counts!)

Being a uniform manager or laundry man for the Portland Trail Blazers was something to brag about. Or maybe not. That season, the Blazers ran through 24 different players. And still neatly had a winning record. We might’ve had a chance to come out of the crowd that year. And it’s just as funny as it sounds.

The Blazers could’ve made up an entire team out of its frontcourt alone (15 different players ranging from center to small forward).  As the old saying somewhat goes, if you have five centers, you really have none.

Arvydas Sabonis had retired, Dale Davis and Theo Ratliff were no longer bigs that could help navigate you to the NBA Finals, and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Vladimir Stepania, Slavko Vraneš were merely projects based on potential in 2004. And 2005. And 2006. And 2020.

There was no chance Portland could draft the Draft’s two biggest stars, Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor, but a chance to snag one with their No. 13 pick was promising. There was Al Jefferson, or maybe even Josh Smith or Anderson Varejao. Instead, the Blazers went with Sebastian Telfair.


There is some rationale here, too: in Jail Blazers by Kerry Eggers, Jefferson’s camp thought it would be redundant to take Jefferson and Zach Randolph as a frontcourt. They also never got a chance to see him workout. And he apparently showed up four hours late to a personality test.

Still, with what we know about how Telfair’s career didn’t work out (which isn’t all his fault), taking on Jefferson was a risk maybe worth taking.