Updated: Oct. 28, 2006, 5:07 PM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Fresh faces finding right Trail?

Blazers

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Portland Trail Blazers finish in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference? Get 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.


ANALYST COMMENT
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
A hint from the Blazers themselves that this season is about development … while praying they land Greg Oden in the '07 lottery: Martell Webster, Joel Przybilla and Jarrett Jack are on the cover of the team's media guide.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
We'll choose Darius Miles as the Player Most Likely to be Traded, and we imagine we'll hand that title over to Zach Randolph once the Blazers get their 16 wins and head into the offseason.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
Nate MacMillan has his hands full. They were dead last in points scored and 26th in defensive FG percentage. Zach Randolph needs to step up to the challenge on and off the court or it will be another disastrous year.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
Four of their top 10 players are new and, believe me, that's a good thing. I'm also a big fan of Nate McMillan. Then why last? Randolph and Miles are meaningless stat stuffers who kill team morale.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com
Rebuilding the franchise around Brandon Roy was the smartest thing they could have done. They won't win immediately, but they eliminated the chance that the fan base will treat Paul Allen like George Shinn.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
Let's see -- Darius Miles' knees already are hurting and Zach Randolph was late for the first preseason game. Forget hoping for a playoff spot -- smart Blazer fans have moved on to hoping Greg Oden likes rain, halibut and pinot noir.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
They added prospects Roy, Aldridge and Rodriguez, but didn't dump Miles and Randolph. Those chemistry killers, along with so much inexperience, should make them the worst team in basketball … again.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
Whimsical owner Paul Allen took bids on his team and then said, "Nah." I can understand why. Issues remain but they have more promising young talent than any other team in the division.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
All things considered, probably the worst team in the league. Nice young players, though. If guys can establish a pattern of professionalism this season, the future could be bright.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
Had a solid offseaon with draft picks Roy and Aldridge. The issues of leadership are still a concern with a young roster. A tremendous challenge ahead, but I am a big fan of Roy, tremendous upside. Not really sure where they're headed just yet.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 5 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 14.9 | Standings


Portland Fail Blazers
Dunleavy
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
D-Miles and Z-Bo lead the way into the realm of lowered expectations for a once-proud Blazers franchise that has lost more games every year since 2003. Bring back Kevin Duckworth.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Jarrett Jack
Point Guard
6-3 | 202
If he can't handle the job, Dan Dickau steps in. He better handle the job.
Brandon Roy
Shooting Guard
6-6 | 210
ROY for Roy? Some things are meant to be.
Darius Miles
Small Forward
6-9 | 210
He says his knee will be fine. Team says he might back up Travis Outlaw.
Zach Randolph
Power Forward
6-9 | 253
What's dipping faster, his numbers or his rep?
Joel Przybilla
Center
7-1 | 255
Five years and 32 mil to platoon with Jamaal Magloire. Huh?
Bench: LaMarcus Aldridge and Outlaw are long, and Juan Dixon and Martell Webster can stroke it. Magloire, well, he takes up space.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Juan Dixon
Player efficiency rating
projection: 14.14
vs. NBA avg.: -0.86
Blazers profiles

Scouting report: Dixon is an unusual player because he has a shooting guard's mentality and a point guard's body. While several other players of that ilk are roaming the league, the difference with Dixon is that he can really defend. His intensity and competitiveness have made him an NBA player despite his shaky ballhandling and scrawny 164-pound build, and that's fully in evidence when his opponent has the ball. On the downside, he can do little against bigger guards in the blocks and only the imposing presence of Joel Przybilla behind him saved Dixon from nightly beatings.

Normally the solution would be to put Dixon at point guard, but he can't play that position offensively. For starters, the same drive that helps him overachieve on defense also gives him tunnel vision on offense, as he tends to force long jumpers and doesn't see the floor well. Additionally, he's a weak dribbler and can be pressured upcourt. The solution in Dixon's case is to pair him with a big point guard and cross-match at the defensive end. Fortunately for Dixon, Portland has two players who can do just that in Jarrett Jack and Brandon Roy.

Finally, Dixon still has no idea where the 3-point line is. He once again was the league's unofficial leader in "baskets that would have been 3-pointers if his foot wasn't on the line."

2006-07 outlook: Dixon won't be starting at shooting guard anymore now that the Blazers have Brandon Roy, but he still figures to carve out some playing time for himself in the backcourt. At worst, he should garner close to 20 minutes a night as Roy's understudy, but he also might beat out Dan Dickau and Sergio Rodriguez for the backup point guard job and act almost as a sixth starter. Dixon might not shoot quite so well on 3-pointers next season, but his shoot-first mentality works much better as a reserve than with the starting unit and his other numbers should hold up fine.


Roy For ROY?
Roy
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
Brandon Roy, whose court awareness might outpace his outside shot at this point in his development, is expected to see significant time as a rookie guard out of Washington.


SportsNation Speaks
We asked Portland fans about a couple of potential moves.

Keep Darius Miles and Zach Randolph?
46.1% Trade both
41.6% Trade Miles, keep Randolph
8.1% Keep both
4.3% Keep Miles, trade Randolph

Vote: Blazers in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Trail Blazers

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Blazers' logo on your chest?

The Blazers have been tradeaholics. People talk up the Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Jamaal Magloire deals.

But man, can anyone really argue that Sergio Rodriguez for nothing but Paul Allen's cold hard cash was pretty much the perfect trade?

"Spanish Chocolate" is the flashiest little dude since Jason Williams, and now it turns out that he can actually play! If Sergio leads the Blazers to 10 straight wins this year, I'll get that tat.

Henry Abbott | truehoop.com



Coach's Corner

NATE MCMILLAN COACHING FILE
Experience: 6 years
Record: 233-244
Playoffs: 8-8
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

How much losing can Coach Nate McMillan stand? That's a question only he can answer, and that answer will dictate everything from style of play to who gets the PT.

With no fewer than five first- and second-year players with real NBA talent, McMillan can go with a youth movement in preparation for the future, but at the expense of winning now.

Or he can try to improve upon last year's numbers by mixing in his young'uns with the vets who, one year ago, stumbled to 21 wins.

For the long term, McMillan's biggest challenge is to start forming an identity that will serve as a solid foundation for the future.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Size. To say "biggest strength" implies that a team has more than one, or even any. In this case, "least glaring weakness" might be a better description. But there's no question the Blazers have some big bodies, and we're talking about big bodies that can actually play a little, too.

Pryzbilla and Magloire give the Blazers two legit big centers who can clog the middle and defend the post, while Randolph is a space-eater who can crush smaller forwards on the blocks.

Behind them is the promising but raw Aldridge and the 6-11 Raef LaFrentz, another shot-blocker. Blocking shots is one of the few things Portland did well a year ago, and they should again be well above the league average in that metric.

Even their small dudes are big dudes. Small forwards Outlaw and Miles both are 6-9, backup shooting guard Webster is a solidly built 6-7, and the 6-6 Roy could see time at the point.

More Hollinger Blazers analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Roy
Roy

Sleeper: Portland needs something positive and rookie Brandon Roy should provide a ray of hope. Roy is steady, if not spectacular, and can do many things well. He's a solid mid-range shooter, gets to the free-throw line and should be the team's second- or third-leading scorer.

Bust: Just when you thought Joel Przybilla would get a full-time shot to show he can be a force in the middle, in came Jamaal Magloire for a good old-fashioned platoon. Not only will a timeshare hurt his overall numbers, he might lose his starting job to Magloire as well.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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