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.