The 10 Greatest Trail Blazers in history, ranked by Player Efficiency Rating (PER)

The best players in Portland franchise history are easy to name. But when it comes to PER, who's No. 1?

LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs (left); Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs (left); Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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Who's the best Trail Blazer of all time? That question sparks debate among Portland fans.

Is it Damian Lillard, the franchise's all-time leading scorer? What about Bill Walton, who led the 1977 team to the organization's only championship? And Basketball Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler, whose career unfortunately overlapped with Michael Jordan's, deserves a place in the conversation.

Those are three of the greatest players in Portland Trail Blazers history. But is there a way to decide who's the undisputed best player?

At least according to one metric, yes, there is.

What is player efficiency rating (PER)?

Player efficiency rating (PER) is not a perfect stat (there isn't one). Based on certain qualifications, some players have greater career PERs than others, even if it doesn't make sense - as you'll soon see.

The stat was developed by former Memphis Grizzlies' vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger. In Hollinger's own words, the stat "sums up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player's performance."

Via The Washington Post:

"PER takes into account accomplishments, such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative results, such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls. The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis so that, for example, substitutes can be compared with starters in playing time debates. It is also adjusted for the team's pace. In the end, one number sums up the players' statistical accomplishments for that season."

The league average PER each season is 15.0.

10 Greatest Trail Blazers in franchise history according to PER

Some of the names on this list seem sensible, especially at the top. And if you squint close enough, there's an argument for others to be included. And then there's one player you've probably never heard of who's a wild statistical outlier:

10. Billy Ray Bates

Evidence A that PER isn't a perfect stat.

Billy Ray Bates was the 47th overall pick in the 1978 draft. He played in 187 games across four seasons in the NBA, 168 of which came with the Trail Blazers. He averaged 18.0 minutes and never started for Portland.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard scored 12.3 points per game during his time with the franchise. He was traded twice during the 1982-83 season, first from Portland to the Washington Bullets and then from Washington to the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, Bates started abusing drugs and alcohol, an all-too-common theme in the NBA in the 1980s.

Still, his PER of 19.0 is 10th in Blazers history.