Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:35 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
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Where will the Portland Trail Blazers finish in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST DIV CONF COMMENT

Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

5
14
Future could be bright, but present will be painful.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
5
14
Nate McMillan is going to earn every dollar and the denizens of the Rose City will pine for Isaiah Rider. OK, that last part won't happen. I've heard dramatically mixed reviews on McMillan's abilities. This season will settle the debate.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
5
12
The real question is whether Nate McMillan and Zach Randolph will see eye to eye. Portland will need consistent play from Theo Ratliff at center and more than SportsCenter highlights from Darius Miles to improve on last year's 27 wins.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
5
15
Nate McMillan has his work cut out for him. The Blazers have a ton of talent but virtually no experience. In two or three years they could be really good. But this season could get ugly.
John Hollinger ESPN Insider
5
14
Keep an eye on this team, because the Trail Blazers have a stockpile of talent that should make them a juggernaut a few years down the road. But for now, they're terrible.
Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2

5
14
No longer Jail Blazers, but Bassy, Juan Dixon and Jarrett Jack are about three years away from being the next Isiah, Joe D and Microwave.

Tim Legler ESPN Insider
4
11

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Portland Trail Blazers.



Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2


5
14


Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick ...


Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
5
15
A healthy Zach Randolph is a must. Nate McMillan will get them to play hard. They are young and talented but their lack of experience will hinder their chance to get it done this year.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
5
14
The season has not even started and Nate McMillan is already throwing guys out of practice. What will be the larger number? Wins, or the times Nate asks himself, "I left Seattle for what reason?"
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
5
14
Overloaded with forwards and woefully short of shooting guards unless either Juan Dixon or Martell Webster pans out, the Blazers will remain a work in progress and will struggle to reach 30 wins.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
5
15
A year ago, Nate McMillan's Sonics were in the midst of a hopeless preseason with no hint of the 50-win magic ahead. Don't expect a repeat in Portland. Nate's new team is far, far greener.


Youth Movement
Ginobili
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
Everything's wee in Portland, from the point guard (Sebastian Telfair -- uh, that's him on the left) to the fans.


Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Trail Blazers roster:

PLAYER ANALYSIS RATING
Starters: Backcourt's young and unproven. Frontcourt too.
PF
Zach
Randolph
Double-double machine went from Most Improved to Lost.
7
SF
Darius
Miles
Some say he's found a home. It's only the third time.
6
C
Joel
Przybilla
Double-double potential. Averaged 8.8 and 9.7 after break.
7
SG
Juan
Dixon
Also known as "Martell Webster's future backup."
6
PG
Sebastian
Telfair
Posted 11 and 6 as a starter. But 19% beyond the arc.
6
Bench: Points? Ruben Patterson. Defense? Theo Ratliff. Fresh legs? Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster. Point play? Jarrett Jack. So, McMillan has options.
7

TOTAL SCORE

39

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Travis Outlaw
Player Efficiency Rating
15.45
vs. NBA Avg: +0.45

Travis Outlaw is a natural small forward but may have to play shooting guard this year unless Darius Miles is traded. One thing is clear: He has to play somewhere. Outlaw is one of this season's most obvious breakout candidates (the rest of my starting five would be Stromile Swift, Chris Andersen, Zaza Pachulia and Al Jefferson), having posted solid numbers as a reserve for two straight seasons. His jump shot has developed nicely the past two seasons and is now a reliable weapon from the middle ranges. Like many of the young Blazers, Outlaw is a terror in transition. However, he'll need to improve as a ballhandler to play on the perimeter.

Defensively, asking Outlaw to play shooting guard may be asking a bit much from a quickness perspective. However, he is a potentially awesome defender who has good size and he's an outstanding leaper. Outlaw needs to develop strength and improve on the boards, but he's only 21 years old. In time, his athleticism should win out.

Outlaw's development brings an interesting question to the fore for the Blazers. They already have Miles, Ruben Patterson, Sergei Monia, Viktor Khryapa, and Martell Webster on the roster. All of them either shooting guard or small forward. It seems Portland needs to do some housecleaning, but the question is who will draw the short stick and be traded. One thing is clear: It won't be this guy. Other than Webster, Outlaw is the youngest and most talented of the group.

-- Trail Blazers player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.


Miles To Go
McMillan, Miles
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
So far new coach Nate McMillan has the ear of young veteran Darius Miles, who had choice words for McMillan's predecessor.


SportsNation Speaks

The housecleaning is not done in Portland, so we asked SportsNation whose rear end the swinging door would hit soonest:

Who's most likely to be dealt?
42.7% Darius Miles
40.6% Ruben Patterson
16.7% Zach Randolph

Vote: Blazers in 2005-06 | Results



Tim's Time
Zach Randolph

Legs on Blazers: For the past four to five seasons the Blazers have been a vastly underachieving group. Part of the problem was a roster laden with similar-type players unwilling or incapable of playing team basketball. Nate McMillan won't be able to change things overnight, but his coaching style is exactly what this team needs. McMillan will bring much-needed discipline and an offensive style predicated more on ball movement and less on isolations.

Zach Randolph will post 20 and 10 every night. Theo Ratliff will anchor the team defense with his shot blocking and board work.

Second-year point guard Sebastian Telfair will take over for the departed Damon Stoudamire. In his rookie campaign, Telfair showed flashes of brilliance and a court awareness that will put a smile on his coach's face.

Darius Miles, Ruben Patterson, Joel Przybilla and newcomers Steve Blake and Juan Dixon fill out the rotation. Solid, but not playoff worthy.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Coach's Corner
Nate McMillan
Experience: 5 years
Reg. season record: 212-183
Playoff record: 8-8
Coach's profile

The 52 wins that Nate McMillan's SuperSonics posted last year were the product of five years of hard work and patience in Seattle.

It will take the same type of grinding to put the Trail Blazers back on the right path. McMillan is a no-nonsense guy brought in to do just that.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider



Hollinger's Q & A
Is the Jail Blazer era finally over?

When general manager John Nash took over three years ago, his mandate was to cleanse the locker room, ditch the bad contracts and rebuild around a young nucleus.

Two out of three ain't bad.

Although Nash is stuck with a few terrible contracts -- including some of his own doing (Theo Ratliff and arguably Randolph and Miles) -- the Blazers have an exciting young group to rebuild around and should be a force within a couple of seasons.

However, Blazer Mania is unlikely to take hold until the players can stay off the police blotter and out of trouble. Last season was an improvement in that respect, although there were a few setbacks -- most notably Qyntel Woods' pit bull enterprise and Miles' tirade against Cheeks.

Still, of the Jail Blazer generation, only Miles, Randolph and Patterson remain. And they make for tepid Jail Blazers compared to the Isaiah Riders and Bonzi Wellses of the past. Patterson largely seems to have reformed his ways and is gone after this season anyway, while Randolph has been incident-free for nearly two years.

Thus, while the locker room can't quite be declared cancer-free, the patient is improving rapidly.

More Hollinger Blazers analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Telfair
Telfair

Sleeper: Sebastian Telfair made nice strides as his rookie season progressed. Too bad other issues in Portland received more attention. Telfair averaged 11.1 points and six assists as a starter, and he's not likely to relinquish that role. He doesn't have three-point range or great defensive instincts for steals, but for assists, he'll make a snazzy eighth-round pick.

Bust: Theo Ratliff can still block a shot with the best of them. But coming off a career-worst season in which he couldn't even average five points per game, Ratliff's not likely to improve. Look for Joel Przybilla to remain the starter. Ratliff will be a decent free-agent pickup if you need blocks, but even then, that's all you get.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index

 

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