Possessing the mobility and quickness of a shooting guard and the athleticism and strength of a power forward, the small forward position is the most multifaceted and balanced position on a basketball team. The Portland Trail Blazers has had 60 small forwards in it’s 49 year history. It’s the only position on the team that hasn’t had a player named as an All Star (Though some were named All Stars before or after their tenure with Portland).
Here are the top 10 Blazers Small Forwards
10. John Johnson (1973-1976)
16 ppg 6.7 rpg 3.4 apg
16.7 per .522TS% 10.6 WS
A star small forward in high school and college, Johnson still holds scoring records for his alma mater. He averaged 27.9 points per game his final year. He was drafted by the Cavaliers and was named an All Star 2 of his three seasons on the team (he was the cavs 1st all star)
He played for three seasons in Portland from 1973-76 until he was traded for Steve Hawes, after Bill Walton’s injury. He was one of the original point forwards. He brought the ball up court and controlled the offense. He could pass with precision. He had a keen and focused court vision. He also played with the aggression and intensity of a big man.
9. Stan McKenzie (1970-73)
13.5 ppg 3.5 rpg 2.3 apg
14.7 per .543 TS% 11.4 WS
McKenzie was taken by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1970 expansion draft. He was part of the inaugural team, one of the Blazers first small forwards, and played for Portland for three seasons towards the middle of his career.
He scored 19 points in Portland’s debut game to help lead the Blazers to their first win, not to mention 19 points in three of the Blazers first four games. He notched a career high 31 points in his second season with Portland against the Cavaliers. He was the ideal counterpart to Geoff Petrie and Rick Adelman. Though he didn’t get to the playoffs with Portland, he was a big part in their fast breaking high atmospheric play, that got them noticed around the league. He scored 1000 plus points in each of his first two seasons with Portland, in which he played all 164 games . He was traded seven games into his third season.
8. Al Farouq Aminu (2015-present)
9.5 ppg 7.1 rpg 1.5 apg 1 spg
12.4 per .535 TS% 15 WS
The Chief has arrived (Al Farouq translated) on this list of 10 small forwards for the Blazers. While Aminu has played most of his career at small forward, the Blazers have integrated him as their starting 4. He was signed in 2015 after Lamarcus Aldridge left.
He has brought length, athleticism, and speed to Portland’s lineup. He plays better attacking the basket, often hangs around the arc, shooting three pointers when he can get open. He still needs to find better consistency there, but is shooting 35%. He can be a conduit for the Blazers fast break offense, but still has work to do on ball handling on the move.
Aminu is at his best rebounding and playing defense. His reach and quickness allow him to beat opponents on the boards and to record second chance points. He is a versatile player, can guard multiple positions, and often defends the best players on opposing teams. He netted a career high 28 points in his first season with Portland in a win against the Boston Celtics.
7. Bonzi Wells (1998-2004)
13.3 ppg 4.7 rpg 2.6 apg
17.3 per .530 TS% 19 WS
Snagged by the Blazers after he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons (much to their regret),Wells was a highly talented forward/guard. His potential was stunted by bad influence and immaturity, but all the same he possessed a demonstrative ability on both ends of the floor.
He holds the Blazers record for most points scored in a playoff game with 45, which he netted on the way to leading Portland back from an 0-3 deficit against the Mavericks to force a game seven. He scored a career high 37 points in his fifth season with Portland in a win against the Pistons, the very team that drafted and traded him.
He had the talent and skill to be a star, but he couldn’t quite put it together. His personality was to loud and distracting for it to happen for him. He found maturity later in his career in Memphis, and regret that he couldn’t have been something greater in Portland.
6. Nic Batum (2008-2015)
11.2 ppg 5.1 rpg 3 apg
15.2 per .568 TS% 37.4 WS
The French forward was nabbed from the Rockets in a trade on draft night in 2008. He was a starter 4 games into his 2nd season. His freakish length, athleticism, and agility enabled his ability to chase opponents across the court and swat them from behind at the last moment. He also was able to use his wingspan and quickness to get to to basket and score with ease.
Though he is an apt 3 point shooter (he shot 35% from the arc during his time in Portland. He shot 40% in his second season) he was asked to rely on it too much at times for the Blazers, taking away from his other capabilities. Batum had a career high 35 points during his fifth season in a two point overtime win against the Rockets. He has had a handful of 30+ point games in his time as a Blazer. He is one of three Blazers to pull off a 5×5 with 11 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, and 5 Blocks (The other two…Bill Walton and Jusuf Nurkic)
5. Scottie Pippen (1999-2003)
11.4 ppg 5.3 rrpg 5.0 apg
15.6 per .524 TS 20.5
Pippen of course best known for the many championships he won playing next to Michael Jordan, was part of Portland’s late nineties early naughts run at the championship. He was a point forward (often starting at point guard), a solid veteran presence, and an integral part of Portland’s attempt to balance a volatile group of players, whose many personalities and egos threatened to, and inevitably overtook ability and talent.
He came to Portland a six time NBA champion and seven time All Star, not to mention an eight time defensive first team player, and a member of the Dream Team, the most magnanimous of USA
But, he also came with twelve years of wear and tear. He wasn’t near the same player he was in his heyday with Chicago, nursing several injuries including a meddling elbow injury. But, he still showed sparks of his prime self. He spent 4 of his last 5 seasons in Portland, helping the Blazers achieve 4 playoff appearances, including a trip to the western conference finals in his first season with the team.
4. Bob Gross (1975-1982)
9.2 ppg 4.5 rpg 3.0 apg
14.8 per .560 TS% 30.4 WS
1977 NBA Champion
1978 NBA All Defensive Second Team
The starting small forward for Portland’s 1977 championship team, Bob Gross played eight of his nine seasons in the NBA with Portland. He was picked by the Blazers in the second round of the 1975 NBA draft. He made the NBA All Defensive First Team in 1978. His Jersey #30 was retired by the Blazers in 2008.
Gross was the consummate small forward. He was the tributary for which the Blazers offense flowed. He was super glue, the cohesive bond that helped mold a balanced team into a contender and a champion.
He was the ultimate competitor on both ends of the floor. An original diamond in the rough. He could move with and without the ball with the utmost/greatest poise. He could shoot the ball with ease and was an excellent finisher on fast breaks. He was an exceptional passer and had a knack for finding cutters at the basket. He was an unremitting defender. He had an eye for the bigger picture. He has career highs of 27 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists, 6 steals, and 4 blocks with Portland.
3. Calvin Natt. (1979-84)
17.2 ppg 6.9 rpg 2.2 apg
17.7 Per .592 TS% 34 WS
Natt played time at both the three and four but with the Blazers he was primarily a small forward. That didn’t stop him from going inside. He went into the paint like a piece of iron. He scored the majority of his points close to the basket.
His nickname was “Pit Bull” and for very good reason. He was an attack dog. He was the epitome of tough. He would have went against Paul Bunyan in the post if he got the chance. Backing down from bigger players wasn’t in his DNA. He prized the challenge and forced his way to the basket with an imposing strength.
He averaged 20 points and 7 rebounds a game his first year in Portland. He matched a career high 39 points that season. He was traded for Kiki Vandeweghe (along with Fat Lever, Wayne Cooper, 1984 2nd, 1985 1st) after 4 seasons in a blockbuster trade. Though Vandeweghe would prove to be a star level player in Portland, Denver got a steal. Natt became an Allstar and helped them advance to the western conference finals.
2. Kiki Vandeweghe (1984-1989)
23.5 ppg 5.3 rpg 2.7 apg
18.9 per .600 TS% 33.9 WS
The Blazers lost a junkyard dog in Calvin Natt, but they gained a high powered shooter in Kiki Vandeweghe. Where Natt offered defense, rebounding, and scoring at the basket, Vandeweghe was a high profile perimeter shooter. He averaged 20+ points a game all five of his seasons with Portland. He shot 40% from three point land. And had a game high 47 points in a win against detroit his first season. Alongside Clyde Drexler, he made one half of a potent duo, helping lead Portland to the playoffs all five seasons, getting them to the 2nd round his first year.
1. Jerome Kersey (1984-1995)
12.1 ppg 6.1 rpg 2.2 apg
15.9 per .521 TS% 59 WS
2 NBA Finals appearances: 1990, 1992
Mercy Mercy Jerome Kersey! Playing in Portland for eleven seasons, Kersey is the longest tenured Blazer small forward. He was a steal in the second round of the 1984 draft with the 46th pick. He fell so far because he attended a lesser known college, at Longwood. But, if you looked closely as the Blazers did, you would see he set records there in nearly every category.
Kersey came off the bench his first two seasons and was a 6th man contributor. He started in his fourth season and never looked back. Kersey
was a beacon of energy on the court. He stripped defenders, dove for balls, tore down rebounds, threw down powerhouse dunks that shook the rim and reverberated within the cheers of the fans. He was the grit and the grind. He was the backbone of the late eighties early nineties golden years team, which featured a nucleus of Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams, and Kevin Duckworth.
Kersey helped lead the Blazers to 11 playoff appearances, including two trips to the finals and three western conference finals, with 5 seasons of 50+ wins. He came in second behind Michael Jordan in the 1987 slam dunk contest. He scored a career high 36 points in 1988, his fourth season, to go with 8 rebounds in a 127-125 win against Philadelphia. He is still on several of the Blazers all time record boards among Portland’s best.
After his playing career he served as Director of Player Programs for the Blazers before becoming an assistant coach with the Bucks under Terry Porter. He later returned to Portland as a Director of Alumni Relations, until his untimely death at a young 52 from a blood clot, following a knee surgery. He will live on in glory through his storied career, a legend in his own right.
Gerald Wallace (2010-12)
14.2 ppg 7 rpg 2.6 apg
16.7 per .569 TS% 6.1 WS
Wallace was nicknamed Crash because his highly energetic and competitive nature, which often led to him sacrificing his body for loose balls, rebounds, and very physical defense. Most of his accolades came before his time in Portland, notably during his time with the Bobcats. He played for a season and two thirds with Portland before being traded for a package that included the draft pick which become Damian Lillard.
During his time in Portland, he provided much needed offense in the absence of injured Brandon Roy. He scored 40 points, two shy of his career high in his first season with Portland against the Thunder.
Darius Miles (2003-2006)
13 ppg 4.6 rpg 2 apg 1.1 bpg
15.5 per .514 TS% 3.3 WS
Miles career was hampered by his no care attitude and his immaturity. He was a kid living the big life and it showed through his antics on and off the court, that establish him as part of the not so dignified Jail Blazers.
Still, undeniably he was a highly talented player, with a seemingly superhuman athleticism. He was known for his ability to run the floor and his high flying dunks. He had a career high 47 points to go with 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 4 assists in a showcase of his talent and ability.
Gary Gregor (1970-72)
10.6 ppg 7.3 rpg 2.1 apg
12.3 per .472 TS% 2.5 WS
Another original Trail Blazer, Gary Gregor played both small and power forward with Portland. He played at the three most of his NBA career, after playing as a power forward/center at the University of South Carolina. At 6’7 he played more like a big man than a wing, scoring the majority of his points closer to the basket.
Gregor played for Portland their first two seasons in the league. He achieved two 28 point games with Portland, a point shy of his career high. He also had a 24 point, 20 rebound game in a win against the Warriors his first season with the Blazers.
Ruben Patterson (2001-2006)
9.7 ppg 3.7 rpg
16.1 per .547 TS% WS 16.1
Patterson perhaps unfortunately known better for his criminal record than his ability on the basketball court, was a skilled forward. His true potential as a player was never realized due to his erratic behavior.
Still Patterson was an apt shooter around the basket and a solid defender. He foolishly dubbed himself the Kobe stopper. Though he didn’t really ever stop Bryant, Patterson often limited his output. Ruben was a lockdown defender who used his speed and athleticism to stifle opponents. He scored a franchise high 31 points in his second season with the Blazers.
Jake Layman (2016-present)
4.3 ppg (8.0) 1.7 rppg (3.2)
12.3 per (15.3 per).553 TS% (.624 )
Layman has played three seasons with Portland in limited minutes. At .614 this season he has one of the highest true shooting percentages of any Blazers small forward. He scored 17 points in eight minutes during his fourth quarter debut against the Warriors. He became the second Blazer to hit 5 threes in his first game. The other: Damian Lillard. Layman was a long ball shy of matching Clifford Robinson’s six three pointers in one quarter. He scored a career high 25 points this season vs the Heat. He is lightning quick, a skilled cutter, and a highly energetic player. He has the potential to climb the top 10 list like he climbs the basket.
A Nod Also to…
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)