4. The Trail Blazers gave up too soon on Drazen Petrovic
Those familiar with Drazen Petrovic and his story know that he died tragically at the age of 28 in a car crash, the midst of a bright basketball career as he became a star for the New Jersey Nets. What many do not remember is that he was originally a draft pick of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland took Petrovic, a dynamic guard from Croatia, with the 60th pick of the 1986 NBA Draft. We talked earlier about great players to come from specific picks in the draft; the 60th pick actually has produced its fair share of well-known players, like Isaiah Thomas and Michael Cooper.
Petrovic did not play in the NBA for a few seasons but finally came to the league in 1989. He had a small role on a very good Blazers team as a rookie, appearing in 77 games and proving to be an absolute knockdown shooter. The next season, however, as Portland was going all-in on a push to the NBA Finals (they would make it there and lose to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls) they included Petrovic in a trade for Walter Davis.
Portland got its “win-now” value out of the deal, but in hindsight they got the raw end of the trade. Petrovic positively exploded in New Jersey, averaging 20.6 points the next season and 22.3 the following year; that latter number was 11th-most in the league and earned him an All-NBA spot.
What happened that following summer was tragic, with Petrovic losing his life. Portland obviously didn’t know when they made the trade that would happen, so in the context of how they handled having Petrovic on their team, they certainly gave up too soon. There is an alternate history here where Petrovic has a long career and did so in a Blazers uniform.