COACH: Nate McMillan | 2004-05: 27-55
Portland Trail Blazers

Randolph and Miles must provide veteran leadership in Portland this season.
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images
The youth movement is firmly underway in Portland, from the hardwood to the head coach. A number of veterans have been replaced with younger players possessing the all-important upside. It may take a few seasons for that potential to equate to Ws, but the Blazers are preaching patience in the development of their young squad.

It’s only fitting one of the league’s youngest head coaches, Nate McMillan, would guide this team. McMillan, known as a disciplinarian who gets his players to work hard, was one of the top defensive guards during his playing days and should help second-year point guard Sebastian Telfair develop a well rounded game.

Telfair finished the 2004-05 season on a high note, starting the final 26 games after Kevin Pritchard took over the coaching duties from Maurice Cheeks. During that time, Telfair averaged 11.1 points, 6.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game, numbers he improved upon in Vegas Summer League action.

With only rookie Jarrett Jack as a backup, the Blazers recently added Steve Blake as a third point guard. Blake provides additional experience to the position in the event Telfair is injured while also having the ability to knock down perimeter shots from the point guard spot.

Waiting for his chance at shooting guard is 18-year-old Martell Webster, who GM John Nash said he believed was the best shooter available in the 2005 NBA Draft. With a muscular frame and advanced offensive skills uncommon for a player straight out of high school, Webster is a promising young player but will likely encounter his share of rookie struggles.

The Blazers have experience up front, where Darius Miles, Zach Randolph and Joel Przybilla will man the remaining starting positions. Przybilla’s coming out party came in the middle of the year when he received the starting nod. In 50 contests as a starter, Przybilla averaged 8.7 points, 10.1 boards and an impressive 2.82 blocks per game. Theo Ratliff, the most experienced player on the roster, is expected to challenge Przybilla for time at the pivot.

With so much youth receiving big minutes, don’t expect the Trail Blazers to be significantly better than last season. But, like McMillan and the front office, have patience in the development process.

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Randolph On The Defensive

Randolph
Not only will Zach Randolph be counted on to provide veteran leadership this year in Portland, but he’ll be counted on to provide more defense as well. Playing under a defensive minded coaching staff of McMillan and assistant Maurice Lucas, Randolph is expected to be more than just a 20-and-10 guy. As Lucas said on the team website in late August, one goal for the season would be to “teach Zach and Darius (Miles) that playing defense will make them better offensive players.” Randolph’s offense fell off from his 2003-04 career highs, mainly because of a sore right knee that required season-ending surgery. Randolph is expected to be ready when training camp opens.

321
THE STAT
Joel Przybilla and Theo Ratliff combined to swat 321 shots last season as both ranked in the top seven in the NBA in blocks per game.
X&O STRENGTH

McMillan
The Blazers are another team that was hurt by injuries last year. Their best scorer, Zach Randolph, played in 46 games last year. So much of what the Blazers do will have to center around Randolph. Other than Darius Miles, this team doesn’t have a proven scorer ... The team lost a lot of offense with the departures of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Nick Van Exel, Derek Anderson, Damon Stoudamire and Richie Frahm ... The Blazers’ strength is their athletic ability. They have a lot of young players ... The Blazers may be the youngest team in the NBA.

X&O WEAKNESS
Weakness for them has always been the intangibles, so to speak. This team has always had great talent, but have never been able to put it together for one reason or another. This team is going to be young and their weakness is going to be that youth ... The Blazers haven’t been a team that has executed extremely well. It will be interesting to see what kind of offense new head coach Nate McMillan is going to use. I don’t know if he is going to try and use something that he used in Seattle, more up tempo, spread the floor. I’m not sure he has the athletes to do that. It will also be interesting to see how playing time plays out. Is Ruben Patterson going to start or come off the bench, which was a problem last year for him.

HEAD COACH PHILOSOPHY
I think Nate’s philosophy will be uptempo. I think he will try and use some of the athleticism that they have. Again, they have some big guys who can block shots and rebound, so at the defensive end they should be OK, but for an offensive philosophy I think they are going to use more Zach, a lot of pick and rolls and isolations for some of these guys who are talented and can get to the basket.

-- Terry Porter (courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association)

Darius Miles: 60% FT hurts, but a SF who averages two blocks is a rarity
Joel Przybilla: Be wary of his 52% FT and he may not be able to repeat last year's numbers
Video: Go inside Trail Blazers training camp
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"Portland is going to be a questionable team because they have to start a very young point guard in Telfair. They're probably going to get the kid Webster a lot of looks early on. So you're talking about a young backcourt, extremely young … They're going to be deep at the three – Patterson's got to get his minutes, Miles has to get his minutes. You've got an emerging young talent in Travis Outlaw … Pryzbilla had a coming out party, found his niche – 'I'm gonna be a rebounder, I'm gonna be a shot-blocker, I'm gonna be a little bit of a force but I'm not going to try to put a lot of points on you. But how he's going to rebound from his knee because his knee had bothered him throughout the season and I'm not sure it's yet to be said whether or not he's going to be healthy or not."
-- Western Conference scout
PLAYER/2004-05 STATS
PPG
RPG
APG
PG
6.8
1.5
3.3
SG
--
--
--
SF
12.8
4.7
2.0
PF
18.9
9.6
1.9
C
6.4
7.7
1.0
G
4.3
1.6
1.6
G
8.0
1.9
1.8
F
5.4
2.1
0.6
F-G
11.6
3.9
2.0
C-F
4.8
5.3
0.5
G
Free Agent
G
Free Agent
G
NBA Draft
F
NBA Draft
G
Free Agent
G
NBA Draft
F
Free Agent
G
Waived
G
Free Agent
G
Free Agent
G
Waived
PPG
18.9
RPG
9.6
APG
5.7
SPG
1.51
BPG
2.51
Points Scored
92.9
(27th)
Points Allowed
96.9
(15th)
Field-Goal Percentage
.451
(12th)
Opponents' FG%
.447
(16th)
Rebounding Differential
-1.06
(19th)
Nov. 2 at Wolves (8:00 p.m. ET, KGW)
The Blazers dropped all four games to the Wolves last season.
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