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Postseason Success is a Long Time Coming for the Blazers

Damian Lilliard
Damian Lilliard's miraculous three-point buzzer beater to down the Houston Rockets in Game 7 didn't make Portland fans completely forget, but it certainly did help. Throughout the history of the franchise, Blazers' fans have seen an amazingly abundant amount of NBA Draft busts and struggles in the postseason. Now, led by budding superstar Lilliard, who won last season's Rookie of the Year award, the Blazers won their first playoff series since 2000 and will get a chance to down the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs. Portland has suffered long enough, and they finally have shot to win it all this season. Taking a long look back now, it is amazing how they have gotten back to the postseason and back to relevance.

No franchise has been wrecked by injuries quite like the Trail Blazers. There are loads of examples of players losing their careers to injury, but perhaps the most infamous may be Sam Bowie, who has been labeled by many as the biggest NBA Draft of all time. The 7'1" center from Kentucky had injury concerns coming into the draft, but the Blazers (after missing out on Hakeem Olajuwon, who would go No.1 to the Rockets and have a Hall of Fame career) still felt he warranted the first overall selection. Bowie played just 139 games over five seasons with Portland, equating to just under 28 games per season. To make things worse, Michael Jordan was the No. 3 pick of that draft and we all know what happened there. Years later, the Blazers wanted to add a big man to their roster to lead their franchise. Ohio State star Greg Oden was the obvious choice, he was called a once-in-a-generation by a number of scouts. Knee injuries cost him his career with Portland even though he was great in the little court time he managed to see. To make things even worse, much like Bowie, Oden was selected over a superstar as the Blazers selected him over Kevin Durant, who will most likely win MVP this year and for years to come. Along with these two, Portland has also missed on Brandon Roy who was fantastic for his first couple years in the league, before knee injuries ruined his career and LaRue Martin, the first pick in 1972 who was selected over Hall of Famer Julius Erving.

Those draft misses are what made Lilliard's trey ball so sweet. Lilliard was a stud at Weber State, a strong program in the Big Sky that is located in Ogden, Utah. Lilliard was an elite-caliber scorer throughout his career with the Wildcats and Portland hoped he could give them the scoring punch they desperately lacked after a rough 2011 season. They selected Lilliard with the sixth pick, a pretty bold move considering many people wondered how his scoring and playmaking would translate to the next level. Lilliard's career started with a bang, he joined Isaiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to have 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debut. He went on to win the 2012-2013 Rookie of the Year and followed it up this year with an All-Star appearance this year. Along with Lilliard, the Blazers have built this postseason team around a number of other successful draft picks. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has developed into one of the best big men in the NBA and had a fantastic series against Houston. Nicolas Batum has developed into one of the more explosive swingmen in the NBA after Portland drafted him with the 25th pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

After years of struggles, it is great to see Portland competitive again and in the hunt for the Finals, filled with a team of budding stars like Aldridge and Lilliard. San Antonio is a fantastic team; they have a ton of depth and still have the core three players who have won them so many games and titles in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli. But, Portland will give them a competitive series for sure, even if they are very inexperienced still in big games. Even if they don't win the Finals this year, the excitement has been restored in Portland and the future is as bright as ever.

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