3. The Trail Blazers gave up too soon on Fat Lever
Lafayette “Fat” Lever was anything but, a thin and speedy point guard who starred at Arizona State before going 11th overall in the 1982 NBA Draft to the Portland Trail Blazers. He had a solid start to his career, averaging 7.8 points and 5.3 assists per game as a rookie and similar numbers the next year. Portland drafted Clyde Drexler the year after Lever and should have had their backcourt of the future in place.
Instead, the Blazers bailed on Lever after his second season. They packaged Lever with multiple other players and a future first-round pick and sent them to Denver in exchange for Kiki Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe was coming off of back-to-back All-Star seasons as a scoring forward with the Nuggets.
He certainly continued to scorer for the next few years, but Vandeweghe never made another All-Star Game and by his fifth year in Portland had fallen to a 13.9 points per game scorer that they ushered along to the New York Knicks. With Kiki in the rotation they floated around the middle of the pack each season and won a single playoff series. He was a good player, but he didn’t change the face of the franchise.
Lever likely wouldn’t have changed the direction of the franchise either, but he certainly had some big seasons with the fast-paced Nuggets. Lever averaged 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game across six seasons in Denver, making two All-Star Games in the process. He arguably had a better career from that point on than Vandeweghe, so when you factor in everything else they gave up to get him, it’s clear that Portland gave up on Lever too soon.