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NBA Preview: Trail Blazers
NBA Preview: Trail Blazers
There was a time when the Portland Trail Blazers were a lock to make the playoffs. After all, they qualified 26 times in the 27 seasons between their championship year of 1977 and 2003.
Those days are starting to feel like eons ago.
Such perceptions are understandable considering they are now the worst team in the NBA. And it doesn't appear that's about to change.
Power forward Zach Randolph is the only sure thing in this group. He led the team at 18 points and eight rebounds a game in 2005-06. Aside from him, Coach Nate McMillan must hand out minutes and see who emerges as the most productive players.
A good bet is rookie off-guard Brandon Roy, who has been impressive in the Las Vegas Summer League and preseason games. The Blazers traded for center Jamaal Magliore, but he has performed so badly that journeyman Joel Pryzbilla has already been named the starter at that position. Pryzbilla is a solid rebounder, but offers little else.
Second overall draft pick LaMarcus Aldridge might finish the season as the starting center, but he is best suited at power forward.
One-dimensional small forward Darius Miles is the second-leading scorer among the returnees, but he will likely open the season behind young Martell Webster, who has some potential. Newly acquired Raef LaFrentz has been sidelined during the preseason, but should return soon and shoud receive extended minutes. Free agent point guard Dan Dickau's stock fell last season, but might find a role here.
Simply put, this is one lousy basketball team.
Key additions: F Aldridge, G Roy, G Dickau, F LaFrentz, C Magliore
Key subtractions: G Steve Blake, F Victor Khryapa, G Sebastian Telfair, F Brian Skinner, C/F Theo Ratliff
Sportsbook odds: Most are predicting the Blazers to not only place at the bottom of the Northwest Division, but to finish with the worst record in the NBA.
Player to watch: The Blazers traded Telfair with the notion that Roy is the real deal. Though Aldridge was their first selection, Roy has played well enough in the preseason for many to select him as an early Rookie of the Year candidate. He has already been named a starter by McMillan. The Blazers are so terrible that it will take more than the emergence of Roy to elevate them to respectability. But they have to build one piece at a time behind Randolph. And shooting guard is as good a place to start as any.
Outlook: The Blazers are the poorest team in the NBA's poorest division. They return no player who averaged three assists a game last year, but are hoping Jarrett Jack can run the offense. They are starting from scratch with a painfully young group, so the speedy development of Roy and Aldridge is paramount. They have rid themselves of most of the dead weight and complaining veterans who had put as many numbers on police records as they had on stat sheets. If everything breaks right, the Blazers could win 30 games. But don't bet on it. They won 21 games last year. Odds are they won't win too many more than that.
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