Portland Trail Blazers: The best defender in franchise history is ….

Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Arvydas Sabonis, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images) /

What the media and peers say about Bill Walton’s defense:

In 2010, Bleacher Report’s Darko Mihajlovski referred to Walton as the “master of fundamentals,” which makes sense, since he wasn’t the most athletically-gifted.

For his career, he finished with a 30.2 defensive rebounding percentage — which would rank No. 3 all-time, only behind Andre Drummond and fellow UCLA alum Swen Nater — and he’d often use that to turn defense into offense with quick outlet passes.

From his peers, you certainly get the idea that Walton had a Russell-like command and order over his defenses.

Here’s how then head coach Dr. Jack Ramsay described him in a Jun. 5, 2010 edition of SLAM Magazine:

"“When he was healthy, which wasn’t for very much of his career, I don’t think there was ever anyone better. He had probably the best across-the-board skills of any center ever; he was an excellent defender, he blocked shots and he had a great sense for directing the defense. On offense, he rebounded and got the ball out on the break-turning and passing while in the air-better than anyone."

And, from SI.com’s May 23rd, 1977 edition, “L.A. Couldn’t Move the Mountain,” another quote:

"“What the shot did was proclaim to the world that Bill Walton has finally arrived on the same plateau as Abdul-Jabbar; that his classically balanced passing and rebounding, his quick shots and outlet bullets, his savage defense and intelligent command of all phases of the game are more than enough to match his adversary’s greater offensive powers.”"

What the media and peers say about Arvydas Sabonis’ defense:

It’s become a well-known fact that by the time Sabonis finally arrived in Portland in 1996, most of the athleticism and foot speed was left on the courts in Europe. Our memories stem from his unenviable chore of guarding the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan in the postseason, a task his 280-pound frame equipped him for.

Though fantastic, he was a 31-year-old during his first season in the NBA, which makes any potential defensive struggle understandable, but if you mistook “Arvydas Sabonis” for “Arthritis Sabonis,” in 2003, few would bat an eye.

There are some brilliant pieces on Sabonis’ defense pre-Portland.  In the Portland Tribune, here’s how P.J. Carlesimo once described Sabonis:

"“He was an effective defender. Not that anybody stopped Shaq in those days, but Arvydas bothered him with his size and strength and by being clever. One guy was young and the other late in his career, but we were one of the few teams that had somebody who could compete with Shaq’s strength underneath. Shaq overpowered everybody, but Arvydas would battle him.”"

What the media and peers say about Clyde Drexler’s defense:

"“His shooting gave the Rockets another perimeter threat. And at 6 feet 7 inches, Drexler can defend against both shooting guards and small forwards.”"

There’s somewhat of a mixed bag, as it relates to Drexler’s actual on-ball defense. Backpicks writer Ben Taylor suggests that Drexler was “questionable” as an on-ball defender, but improved as the likes of Buck Williams, Terry Porter and head coach Rick Adelman entered the fray. Yet, in the Oregon Encyclopedia, they cite that Drexler is “known for his head-down fast breaks and defensive prowess.”

In the Los Angeles Times’ Jun. 2, 1992 edition, Danny Ainge offered this assessment of Drexler:

"“He plays defense, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he sets up his teammates and he scores. He does all the things very similar to what Michael Jordan does. And I don’t know how you could do all those things in a game on a team that has been averaging 60 wins for three years and not play hard.”"

What the media and peers say about Buck Williams’ defense:

As mentioned, Williams was a part of six of the Blazers’ ten best defensive teams in relative DRtg. The way peers viewed him appears to be more of the same. Per Oregon Live, who listed Williams as the No. 7 Blazer of all-time in 2010.

"“Williams was a ferocious rebounder who not only played defense but relished it. And he had an old-school toughness to him.”"

And then here’s how Sports Illustrated’s Vault described him before the 1991 postseason kicked off:

"“Forward Buck Williams, who, because he really doesn’t excel in the defensive categories that appear on stat sheets (blocked shots and steals), is often overlooked as a one-on-one defender. But Portland will need him to shut down the opposition’s toughest scorer.”"

Given the art of debates, we’ll probably never to crystallize a completely-united debate, but there’s enough to give us, more-or-less, a clear-cut four.

Next. Blazers: Who should Nassir Little be studying in quarantine?. dark

With this research, I would say: Buck Williams is the Blazers’ all-time best defender with Walton in a close second. And then, Sabonis or Wallace, and Drexler rounding out the top five. But Scottie Pippen holds the throne as the best defender to ever wear a Blazers uniform.