Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Alright, FINE: you win. Eastern Conference Preview

Eastern Conference Preview: Smorgasboard of Thought

As you all know, we did a fairly lengthy Western Conference preview, and an even lengthier Blazers preview. Well, we’ve gotten some email from Eastern Conference fans – yes, we are aware there is an Eastern Conference – wondering if we could A. insert something in our own something else, and B. perhaps provide a few thoughts on the conference.

What do we say to this? A surprisingly affable “fair enough”. So without further ado, I present you with:

BlazersBlog Eastern Confernce Preview: Smorgasboard of thought.

We here at BlazersBlog care about the Eastern Conference. I promise we do. We even occasionally watch an Eastern Conference game that doesn’t include any teams from the West. Really! And we don’t even fall asleep. That said, following is a smorgasboard of thought – all about the East. Enjoy.
  • Am I the only person who is wholly convinced that the Heat aren’t winning another title? Let’s not forget this is a team that has Jason Williams and Gary Payton as their point guards. Wayne Simien and Jason freaking Kapono are expected to play major roles for this team, for crying out loud. And with the resume’s on some of these guys in Miami, how exactly are they supposed to stay motivated? I’m happy for what they accomplished last year, but we might be talking about a rebuilding team in 12 months.
  • I might have underestimated the Nets this year; I didn’t realize this was a contract season for Vince Carter. Even IF Jason Kidd loses a step this year, and even IF their starting power forward is Jason Collins, this could be a very good team. I don’t like their bench (essentially Uncle Cliffy, Eddie House, and two rookies from UConn), but in the East you don’t need a great bench because nobody has a great bench.
  • If the Cavaliers could get a decent point guard (they’re currently being run by Eric Snow and Damon Jones), then I’ll believe they can contend. I’m fine with Drew Gooden, fine with Big Z, and I am looking forward to seeing what they’ll do with a full season of Larry Hughes. But they really need to upgrade that point spot. With Hughes and Gooden both not knowing what the word “pass” means, I just think it’s asking too much of LeBron to be both the team’s #1 scorer and distributor. If they could swing a mid-season deal for someone like an Andre Miller or a Mike Bibby – or heck, even a Speedy Claxton-type – they could be a top-3 contender in the East.
  • So, how long until we start to hear serious complaints about Rasheed Wallace’s perimeter addiction? We started to hear a little bit of it last year, and I imagine that will only grow louder this season. Larry Brown, for all his faults, was great for Rasheed: he got him to rotate his game between the post and the perimeter, which is exactly what you want with ‘Sheed. Under Flip Saunders, though, Sheed is spending more and more time shooting threes. (Interesting parallel to the Dunleavy/Mo Cheeks effect in Portland).
  • Why is everyone so in love with Chicago’s team? Hirich is great, Wallace will help in the middle, but do we really think that PJ Brown and Andres Nocioni should be legit starters for a top-10 NBA team? To me, this team’s success will hinge on how much they can get out of Deng (is he ready to make The Leap?) and Duhon.
  • I’m just going to come right out and say it: I love the Pacers’ roster. They’re the only other team in the East alongside Miami that I could see competing in the West every night. Granted, they’ve got a bit of the “Cavalier Complex” in that they could use an upgrade at PG (Jamaal Tinsley last year: 5apg, 40% fg, 22% 3pg) – but this team is LOADED. Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, Stephen “craziest man alive” Jackson, Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger … that right there is the best set of five in the Eastern Conference. They can bang, they can run, they can shoot, they can play defense…should be a fun team to watch, and I expect them to surprise a lot of people and get a top-4 seed.
  • Going in to my Eastern Conference preview, I had decided preliminarily to put the Orlando Magic as one of the official “upset specials”. But looking at their roster, I’ve changed my mind and I’m not ready to do it yet. Couple of reasons: 1. I don’t have any confidence in two of their starters, Tony Battie and Grant Hill. 2. With guys like Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu, and Keyon Dooling expected to play major roles, you have to have a decent bench with injury-prone guys like that. And their bench is terrible. 3. I’m not sure Jameer Nelson can handle a full season of starting at the point, both from a physical and a mental perspective. I will say this for the team – I hope they give Darko a chance to play a ton of minutes, because he looked better with every game last year.
  • Another team that could surprise people this year is the Milwaukee Bucks. With one of the better front-lines in the league (Bogut, Villanueva and Simmons) combined with one of the better shooters in the league (Redd), if they can get any kind of production from their bench they’ve got a playoff spot waiting for them. Another team I’m cautiously high on.
  • You have to admire the people who run the Charlotte Bobcats. They said all along that their plan was to conserve cap room, build through the draft, and be patient—and they’ve stuck to that plan despite two vomit-inducing years. They’ve made solid draft picks (Okafor, Felton, Morrison), found a diamond in the rough (Gerald Wallace), and certainly conserved cap (lowest payroll in the league). They won’t be any good this year, and probably won’t be any good next year either, but they’re setting themselves up to make a nice run in about 3 seasons.
  • Alright, I’ll say it: I don’t think the Knicks have a terrible roster. Granted, waiting Jalen Rose when they would have had a nice beautiful expiring contract to bring in a valuable asset in return was foolish, but when you look at their personnel … Marbury, Francis, Frye, Curry, Crawford, Richardson … there is no denying the talent. Now, the way that roster is assembled is a complete disaster; but there has to be some way they can put all that wing talent together to win some games. Those guys aren’t bad players, they’re just selfish ones. But on talent alone this team should probably be fighting for a 7th or 8th spot in the East.
  • Is there a more depressing team right now that the Philadelphia 76ers? They have no chance to win, and they’ve hamstrung themselves with huge contracts given out to AI, Dalembert, and Webber, and will have to give out yet another one to Igoudala next season. This is NOT a good time to be a Sixer fan right now. Think about this for a minute: who’s roster would you rather have, Atlanta’s or Philly’s?
  • The second-most depressing team: Boston. Pierce is great, but everyone else on that team is overrated. Telfair … Szerbiak … Green. The only way I see this franchise turning the corner is if Rajon Rondo and Al Jefferson both turn in to all-stars. I hate to say it because I know some very loyal Boston fans, but I don’t see it getting a whole lot better for this team for a couple of years. Someone in that front office needs to suck it up and just start the rebuild.
  • I look at a team like the Hawks, and I think: why aren’t they better? It’s one of those teams that makes you think there just might be something to a franchise getting stuck with a “culture of losing”. Speedy Claxton, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Salim Stoudamire … put a decent center on that team and they could make the playoffs. That franchise needs to just move to a new city … or something.

Well folks that’s about it. 13 bullets, 1400 words, and 100% of it on the Eastern Conference. Not too shabby, right?

NBA Opening Day: Dash of Salt & Tier Trauma Volume 1

Here at BlazersBlog we try and keep our flavor somewhat unique. Mix it up a little bit. Add a dash of salt. Go against the grain. So you wouldn't expect to see us roll out some everyday, run-of-the-mill Power Rankings would you? Dear god no.

Hence, we've decided to announce something new for this year: Tier Trauma. Rather than rank the teams top-to-bottom, we'd rather group them into tiers. Now the way I see it -- and this was alluded to in my Western Conference Preview, Part 3 -- you shouldn't look at a team as "the fifth best" or "the twelfth best", but rather more generic Tiers. I see the league as containing four tiers, and as I consider myself a fairly avid fan of Boxing, we're doing a little cross-sport overlap. Observe:

Tier 1: Heavyweights. Teams who have a legitimate shot at winning the whole shebang.

Tier 2: Cruiserweights. Not quite ready to be considered in the league's upper echelon, but close and very talented.

Tier 3: Middleweights. Teams that lack a bit of talent or are a few steps away from contention, but have enough to challenge for a playoff spot.

Tier 4: Lightweights. Bad teams who don't have a chance.*

*when we say "don't have a chance", that refers to the championship, not the playoffs. The reason for this caveat is that because the Eastern Conference is so weak, there will inevitably be a lightweight team or two who challenges for a playoff spot.

Now that we've got that established, I present to you the official introduction of Tier Trauma. The teams are listed very loosely within the Tiers in order of strength.


Tier 1 - Heavyweights

Clearly the "big 4" in the NBA this year, and the favorites to hoist the trophy when all is said and done. All four are very strong, very deep and immensely talented. I wouldn't be surprised if Miami got off to a slow start this year and don't be surprised to see them demoted if they suffer a few bad losses.

Tier 2 - Cruiserweights

An interesting group to say the least. Until Detroit proves they can control the game defensively without Ben Wallace as well as they have the past three seasons, they aren't a top-tier contender in my eyes. Denver, the Clippers, or the Pacers (this writer's darkhorse pick to win it all) could each get promoted into that top tier by answering a few minor questions about their teams.

Tier 3 - Middleweights

Most of these teams have something in common: they're either old, aging teams on the way down or young up-and-comers still stuck in the Land Of Potential. The Nets are favorites to win their division , but mainly because their division is so crappy. (Seriously - take a look.) I expect inconsistency to be the theme with this group -- at times they'll look great, and at times they'll look lost.

Tier 4 - Lightweights

Sadly, the biggest group of the bunch. Now I'll acknowledge that teams like the 76ers or Kings could easily beat up on the lesser teams in their leagues and rise up to be a Tier 3 team. Heck, you could even add the Grizz or T-wolves to that list. You might even say those teams have more talent than, say, an Orlando. But I look at the rosters of teams like that and think, "yawn". I'm much higher on teams who are doing things the right way, building around high draft picks and finding diamonds in the rough -- teams with very high ceilings -- than I am teams who rely on past-their-prime starts who get most of their accolades by filling up the bucket with garbage time points. We know those team's ceilings.

So there you have it. The goal is to crank one these babies out every other week. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Once More Into The Breach

Western Conference Preview, Part 4: Portland Trail Blazers

Welcome to the season outlook/preview/prediction section for our Portland Trailblazers. This little conversation between the two of us will take place over the next few days, and it will serve as a general guide through what looks like another rough season in Rip City. The season starts next Wednesday night against the Seattle/Oklahoma City Supersonics, until then, you have to live with our banter:

Question #1, how do you feel about the overall direction of the franchise right now?

Moderator: Better than I did five months ago. Which granted, isn't saying much. You can only get so excited about a team that's rebuilding, but I do think that the 2006 NBA Draft will function as a turning point for this team. I know there were a lot of people out there saying "they're already SO young, why acquire more youth?". And I hear that. But I have very high expectations for LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy; they're both building blocks. And what I liked most about the two of them was this: Roy can play now at a needed position, whereas Aldridge will take a season or two. But we don't need him now, we've got a halfway decent frontcourt, so I feel like the team kind of got the best of both worlds with those two picks. Between Aldridge, Roy, Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, and Sergio Rodriguez, they've stockpiled a very healthy group of potential young starts. At least a few of them have to work out, right? Portland is in for a rough year, but I would defy anyone to point to a roster with more young talent and potential than the Blazers'. I'd rather the front office looked ahead 2-3 seasons from now, and it appears that's what they're doing.

Question #2, what are you expecting the rotation to look like for the first half of this season?

Lochi: Well, I think you have to eliminate Darius Miles from the first half of the season after the reports from Jason Quick the last few days. This really throws the small forward position into a total crapshoot. Right now I'd have to say that the staring 5 that will be used the most often in the first half will be Jack, Roy, Outlaw, Randolph, and Joel. There's growing support for Udoka, if Subterfuge Stevie doesn't cut him just to be a dick. Udoka could very well start Game 1, but the smart money for the most minutes at that spot and the most starts right now is Travis Outlaw. Webster would be the guy but he's also got a bad back. On a side note, a bad back at age 19, that sounds just terrific. The bench on this team looks pretty thin after you get past the injured players. Dickau and Rodriguez both bring some flair to the court but I have a feeling Jack's going to be playing some pretty heavy minutes unless they move Roy to the point for 10-15 a night while Dixon plays the shooting guard. The front court, well, you've got Raef LaFrentz, who will win you a good solid 3 or 4 games this year by himself when he goes on one of his 9 for 9 three point binges. Then there's The All Star, who in the pre-season is bitching about playing time while averaging more turnovers than rebounds. Awesome. All that said, I'm seeing some a lot of court time for Jack, Roy, and Z-bo, which isn't a negative in my mind.

Question #3, How good is Brandon Roy? What type of player are you expecting this season, and is he the savior?

Moderator: Here's the problem: we all know how great Brandon Roy could be. He's got the complete package; he can handle the ball. Shoots it a bit. Gets to the rim. Plays multiple positions. Clutch. And he's a smart, heady leader on top of all that. But if we anoint Brandon Roy "The Savior" right now, then we're dooming him to a Harold "baby jordan" Miner-like career so let's stay away from that for the moment. I think he's in for a great career, and I think he'll be considered one of the steals of the draft in a couple of seasons. I just hope that Nate McMillan doesn't spread him out too much; i.e. split his minutes between PG, SG and SF because I would love to see him be able to learn a position. Most of you know my thoughts on the NBA -- that we don't have 5 "positions" any more but rather three types of players (backcourt guys, wings, and post players). I also don't want to see Roy play 35 or more minutes per night as Nate has been doing in the preseason. The ideal situation would be to simply let him play a generic "backcourt" role -- handle the ball a lot, run the offense at times, do a little scoring-- and start him off at 20-25 minutes per night. This way he is allowed to grow into a leadership role on the team, both off the court and on, and we might even be able to delay the inevitable "rookie wall" that he's bound to hit in March. But yes, I'm very excited about Brandon Roy, and as much as it pains me to say this about a former Husky, I can't ever remember being this excited about a Blazer rookie in a long time.

Question #4, How do you expect the roster to change this season? Which Blazers do you anticipate will be sent packing, and for what type of players?

Lochi: I think this all depends on Z-bo. Is he really a building block for this team or not? That's something that's going to have to be answered by him on and off the court prior to the February trade deadline. It's hard to find legit 20 and 10 guys in the league, and it's equally hard to find guys that can score 20 simply by getting offensive boards and garbage points. That being said, the light upstairs is not all the way on. I don't have the energy to go through all the ridiculous off the court stuff, or the fact that he hasn't discovered an alarm clock and he's past the age of 6. So, my guess is they move him. Miles is obviously the other must move part, and I think he may have played his last game for the Blazers. Just a hunch. They appear set to build around Jack, Roy, and Joel, but if they deal Zach they will have a massive hole at the power forward spot. If I had to wager, I'd say that they move Zach for a good young small forward sometime during the season. Everyone knows they've got their sights firmly set on a certain big man playing his one year of college in Columbus, OH. So, if they can get a quality small forward to go along with Jack, Roy, Oden, and Joel, well, I think they just might be ready to be a contender again.

Question #5: What players do you expect will have a better year than some might expect? Worse? Do you see anyone on this team making The Leap this year?

Moderator: We've been expecting Travis Outlaw and Darius Miles to make "The Leap" for two straight years now, and as tempting as it is to select Outlaw again, there's no way I'm taking that bait. There are two players whom I expect to have a better year than expected: Martell Webster and Zach Randolph. Let's talk about Z-bo first. After two straight years of injuries, arrests, and bad press, I think Zach playing 70 games this season and averaging 18 and 8 all season would be a major, major surprise to most Blazer fans -- but that's exactly what I expect from him this year. This will be Zach's "put up or shut up" year as far as Nate McMillan is concerned, and I think Zbo will make it awfully hard for people to start focusing on LaMarcus Aldridge as the future of the team at Power Forward with his rejuvenated play this season. Next, Martell Webster. We all saw how lost Martell looked at times last season, but this year I expect him to crack the top-9 rotation and start to put it together. My one worry is whether he gets jerked around between the "2" and the "3", but he's got a sweet looking jumper. Granted, it doesn't do any good if you can't move away from the ball and get yourself open. Playing alongside Jack, Roy and Spanish Chocolate will do wonders for Martell's away from the ball movement. Finally, a quick note about players whom I expect to do poorly this year: again, there are two. First, Jamaal Magloire. He may get 15-20 minutes per game for the first portion of the season, but once his legendary work ethic kicks in we'll see his minutes dwindle all season long and I predict that an off-court incident will be the final straw for him as far as Nate is concerned. One last player I expect to have a down year is Juan Dixon, for the sole reason that I don't believe he'll get much playing time this season. Juan doesn't bring a lot to the table to begin with, let alone when he's standing in the way of the devleopment of youngsters. He pitched in and helped out a bit last year, but it's going to be a long season for Stop Shooting Juan this year.

Question #6, In 2005-06, the Blazers were last in the league in points scored and in the bottom five in field-goal percentage allowed. Where do you expect to see the biggest improvement next year? Why?

Lochi: Beyond the whole "can't possibly be worse" argument, the reason they're going to be better off offensively is simply that the people on the floor have a steadier offensive game. Brandon Roy makes everyone on the floor better. I expect this is his biggest impact as a rookie, he's not going to show up and start scoring 28 a night. He is going to see the floor, get to the foul line (more on this in a minute), and as far as his shooting goes I expect him to be like Juan Dixon on his good nights all the time, meaning a great mid-range shooter and a decent 3-point guy. This goes back to my Manu comparison, Roy in college looked a lot like Manu to me, without the flopping. Jarrett Jack is a more consistent player on both ends of the court than either Telfair or Blake were last season, and he's also aggressive to the rim. Outlaw, for all his faults, can get to the rim as well. The easy way for this team to score more points is to get more free throw attempts, Jack, Roy, and Outlaw should accomplish this. The wild card, I'm sensing a theme here, is Z-bo. If he parks his ass on the low block and shoots 10-14 free throws a game, the team is going to average at least 5-10 more points than last year. Defensively, I'm not sure they'll be a LOT better than they were, other than cutting down on the transition baskets by getting to the line on the other side of the court. Jack's a good defender but Dickau and Sergio are going to get ripped up. Roy's a solid defender but how will he react to guarding the best players in the world and not Malik Hairston, this is where I suspect Roy to struggle early until he learns some of the tricks of the trade. Outlaw and Webster guarding NBA small forwards is horrifying, and so is Zach guarding anyone. Joel might lead the league in blocked shots this year becuase of our dreadful front court defense, remember you've also got LaFrentz coming off the bench, who's hideous defensively as well. The wild card here is Udoka, I hear good things, we'll see. Bottom line, this team will score more a lot more points, but will give up about the same as they did last year.

Question #7: Prediction time, will this team have the most ping pong balls in the Greg Oden Lottery? What are the chances they finish ahead of anyone else in the Western Conference, or the Knicks?

Moderator: Portland will not be a playoff team, and I don't believe they'll even get close. They've got a pretty brutal first 15 games of the season, with matchups against the Clippers, Hornets, Mavericks, Cavs, Spurs, Suns, and Pacers -- all clearly superior teams -- just in the first four weeks. As I wrote in the blog, I believe to Blazers to be in the bottom tier of the Western Conference, along with Sacramento, Memphis, Minnesota and Utah. Now, would it shock me if Portland finished ahead of one or two of those teams? Not really. Do I expect them to? No, unless Minnesota cashes in their chips and trades KG, or the Jazz players revolt against Jerry Sloan, or something crazy like that happens. Portland is a young team, and they'll reflect that every single night -- looking great for stretches at a time, and looking lost for stretches at a time. And in the loaded Western Conference, you can't spend a whole lot of time looking lost or you'll get buried. Portland won 21 games last season, and I expect a very mild improvement over that -- somewhere in the range of 24-29 wins. Whether that's enough to get them out of the cellar in the West, I couldn't tell you, but I do think there will be a couple of teams in the Eastern Conference (Atlanta and Charlotte come to mind) who'll be trading punches with them towards the end of the year in fighting for that number 1 draft pick. My guess is that the Blazers end up at #3. Here's my question though, to all of the pundits who think Portland is angling to get Greg Oden: why would they target a big man like him when they drafted their devlopmental PF/C combo player -- LaMarcus Aldridge -- last year?

Question #8, How many years away from the playoffs do you see this team? And how many years away from title contention?

Lochi: First off, let's get the Oden thing out of the way. Why would they be looking to get Oden, because The Marcus is a major flop waiting to happen. He's too skinny, already has two bad knees, and now a bad shoulder. They basically punted the #2 pick in the draft. Even if you think he's going to be somewhat useful, not doing everything possible to get Oden because you made a mistake the year before is the exact reason Chris Paul is not a Trailblazer right now.

Now, how many years away from the playoffs are they? Gosh, I don't know, I'd put the over/under at the 08/09 season, so two seasons from now. The thinking is they get Oden and he'd be in his second year, Roy will be in his third year and an elite player in the back court to go along with him. It took Tim Duncan and Co. a few years to get there, it will take Roy and Oden the same amount of time. As for a championship contender, I'd say you'd have to look a year or two after that, the natural progression in the NBA is compete for playoff spot (next year), then make the playoffs, then advance from there.

Question #9: OK, last question from me. Would this team be nearly as craptastic right now if Bob Whitsitt was still the President/GM? Should they have a promotional campaign on the tv and radio centered around him and set to Cinderella's "Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone"?

Moderator: GREAT question. And one we've all thought a lot about in the last couple of years. Personally, I'd go with a song choice of Richard Marx's "Should've Known Better", but either would be a phenomenal choice. Truthfully, this past draft was very Whitsitt-like ... acquisition of assets, many deals, most of which were a total surprise, the owner spending extra money he didn't need to, etc. I would say wholeheartedly that if we'd had Whitsitt running things for the past few years, we might not have our salary down where it is but we also wouldn't be in this "basement of the NBA" predicament that we find ourselves in. Personally, I would have loved to see what Whitsitt could have done with a simple "stop bringing in bad character guys and chill out on the doubling of the salary cap" edict rather than a simple firing. They guy had an eye for talent, and a flair for finding ways to improve the team.

Last Question, #10. Nate McMillan: What are your thoughts on the job he's done so far, and do you expect him to see this rebuilding process through to the end without turning into a balding, ulcer-ridden alcoholic?

Lochi: Does it have to be either/or? I definately think having Ime Udoka, Travis Outlaw, and Martell Webster as your 3 small forwards will drive you to drinking (it certainly drives me to drink, of course so do many, many, MANY things). I do expect Nate to be here a while for a number of reasons though. First, nobody is going to pay him like Paul Allen, even if the thing continues in its current state of awful-ness he can still kick back with some pinot noir and light his cigar with hundred dollar bills and laugh at the state of affairs. Second, he seems like a guy that genuinely likes molding a young team in his image. I think he might in the long run be a better college coach than an NBA guy for this reason. He's got a young team, he's got a tough young point guard and a do everything young shooting guard. I think he was kind of misunderstood up in Seattle because they got out and ran so much in his successful year there. I get the feeling he'd be more content with a hard nosed defensive team that is efficient on the offensive end. And third, he's entirely blameless in this disaster. Subterfuge Stevie, Paul Allen, Dwight Shrute, Nash, they all are the ones taking a public flogging. Nate gets to be the good guy that concentrates on basketball and if this does get turned around, he'll be seen as the hero. Finally, as far as how he's done so far, I think he's been pretty good. I'm a little bit gun-shy after the Mo Mo The Clown Era, where they had no plays on offense and the defensive philosophy was "go guard people". It looks like they have a plan out there, he's better than I thought he would be, and that's refreshing.

The season gets under way Wednesday night in Oklahoma City...cough...Seattle. We'll have a pre-game report as well as potentially some live blogging during the game. In the meantime, just be thankful that Subterfuge Stevie officially added Udoka to the roster so there wasn't a freaking revolt between the team and the front office before Game 1.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Western Conference Preview Part 3: Northwest Division

NBA Preview 2006: Western Conference Northwest Division

Division Preview
Let me get this out of the way right now: the three worst teams in the West all reside in the Northwest division. Denver is a legitimate playoff team and has put together a quality nucleus, Seattle may fight for one of the last two playoff spots, and the rest of the division is garbage. I’m not kidding. You could take Utah, Minnesota, and Portland and put them in any order. Any of those three teams would finish in last place in the other two divisions. I’m not excited about this, I’m not happy about this, but it’s just the plain truth.


1. Denver Nuggets

Starters: Andre Miller, JR Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby
Bench: Early Boykins, DerMarr Johnson, Eduardo Najera, Reggie Evans, Nene, Julius Hodge, Joe Smith

Solid, solid team all around. They remind me of the Clippers: very good, tons of talent (most of it young), and just one step away from contention. Put Denver in the East and they are a top-4 seed. But in the West … they’re still a player away. It will be interesting to see what kind of affect Carmelo Anthony making The Leap in the world championships this summer has on the Nuggets. It will also be interesting to see what kind of a year they can get out of Nene. If he develops into the Amare Stoudemire clone that some scouts think he can be, and JR Smith finally starts fulfilling all that potential, they could push Denver into that Phoenix/Dallas/San Antonio level. That’s a lot of “ifs”, but given they’ve got a cakewalk division and that there aren’t many teams who can boast a front line as talented as Anthony/Martin/Camby/Nene, don’t forget about the Nuggets.

2. Seattle Supersonics

Starters: Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Chris Wilcox, Johan Petro
Bench: Earl Watson, Nick Collison, Robert Swift, Damien Wilkins, Mickael Gelabale, Danny Fortson

The hot rumor right now is that Earl Watson could wrestle that starting job away from Luke Ridnour, and if that happens, the Sonics would make Ridnour available for trade. Watson doesn’t have Ridnour’s shooting or ballhandling skills, but he’s almost as quick and a much better defender. That should be an interesting early-season battle to watch. But regardless of who plays the point, the Allen/Lewis/Wicox threesome is a highly talented one, and pair that set with a developing Robert Swift, and you’ve got a competitive ballclub. As long as the off-court stuff (Ridnour and Petro potentially losing their starting spots, the sale of the team, arena issues, potential move, rumors of Rashard Lewis wanting out, etc) doesn’t derail this team, I expect them to be right there with the Lakers, Hornets and Warriors, fighting for one of those last two playoff spots.

3. Utah Jazz

Starters: Deron Williams, Gordan Giricek, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur
Bench: Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring, Jarron Collins, Rafael Araujo, Dee Brown

I don’t like the makeup of this team, I don’t think they’ll be able to attract many free agents (quite possibly the most undesirable location of any major sports team), and I think their coach won’t last much longer. But one of these three crappy teams has to go here, and Utah always seems to do a little better than you think they will. They somehow managed to finish in 9th place in the West last season, and while I certainly don’t expect them to repeat their 41-41 record from last year, I do recognize that there is a bit of talent there. Kirilenko, Boozer, and Okur form a somewhat formidable front court, and Fisher/Brewer/Harpring will provide decent enough punch off the bench. We could see the Jazz as one of the first teams to make a major early trade, perhaps sending Boozer or Okur on their way out of town.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

Starters: Mike James, Ricky Davis, Trenton Hassell, Kevin Garnett, Mark Blount
Bench: Marko Jaric, Randy Foye, Justin Reed, Mark Madsen, Troy Hudson, Rashad McCants, Eddie Griffin

KG, Ricky Davis, and a bunch of spare parts: that is what pretty much sums up this team. They have what could be the laziest player in the league (with all due respect to Darius Miles) as the only legitimate center on their roster in Mark Blount. Jaric, Hudson, and Eddie “I like to masturbate in my car while watching anal porn after getting drunk and then crash it into a pole and then try to bribe police officers so it doesn't get reported” Griffin are all vastly overpaid. I’m hearing good things about Randy Foye’s development, and though he’s not expected to start, I imagine he will be by about mid-season. The only reason I’ve got Minnesota ahead of Portland is KG, and if Minnesota starts slow then you know those trade rumors will heat up for the third consecutive year. KG deserves better and I’d love to see him go to a team like, say, Cleveland where he could really showcase his skills and have more support.

5. Portland TrailBlazers

Starters: Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Zach Randolph, Joel Pryzbilla
Bench: Darius Miles, Sergio Garcia, Dan Dickau, Juan Dixon, Travis Outlaw, Raef LaFretnz, Jamaal Magloire, LaMarcus Aldridge

You’ll get the full Portland preview in my co-author and I’s official Blazer preview on Friday. I think we all know where this team stands, and I think we all know it isn’t pretty. Yet.

Projected Order Of Finish:
1. Denver
2. Seattle
3. Utah
4. Minnesota
5. Portland

Review of Overall Conference Predictions:

Tier 1 – Championship Contenders:
Mavericks, Suns, Spurs

Tier 2 – Good Teams Who Are Getting Close:
Nuggets, Clippers, Rockets

Tier 3 – Average Teams Fighting For Playoff Spot:
Hornets, Sonics, Lakers, Warriors

Tier 4 – Bad Teams:
Kings, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Jazz, Blazers

Next up: Blazer Preview, on Friday.

And Now For Something Completely Different

You know I'm not a fan of the pre-season, too long, meaningless, just enough games to get people hurt, etc. However, there do appear to be a few running subplots to this Blazers pre-season, they are as follows:

Ime Udoka could be a sign that things are starting to turn around for this franchise. After tons of "upside" moves based solely on guys being able to dunk real hard (see Outlaw, Travis), now they may have actually gotten lucky on a player. It seems as though he's perfect for this rebuilding effort, a guy who fills up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, and most importantly no turnovers. I haven't seen him play yet, so this could be some false hope, but just looking at the box scores and hearing the reviews, he sounds like Ruben Patterson without all the garbage.

Jarrett Jack can play. We may be on to something here.

Brandon Roy...see Jarrett Jack.

This team might be a little better than we thought, more on this to come in the season overview from both of us later this week. The season starts in a week, it feels like forever when your team stops playing after 81 games and not deep into the playoffs.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Western Conference Preview Part 2: Pacific Division

Western Conference Pacific Division

Division Preview
I still haven’t gotten used to seeing “Pacific Division” and not have it relate to the Blazers. But whatever. Last week we looked at the loaded Southwest division; this week we turn our attention to the Pacific. It’s a very top-heavy division, but one that carries with it several question marks. The class of the division is clearly Phoenix, and the Clippers are a playoff-caliber team as well. The remaining three teams all have big question marks: Lakers, Warriors, and Kings. You could put those last three in any order and you wouldn’t get much argument around the league. Sacramento was good last year, but lost its starting 2-guard. Golden State has always had that magical “P” word – potential – and may finally have a coach that can fulfill some of it. And of course the Lakers. They have the best player in the NBA, but not much else. On to the details!


1. Phoenix Suns

Starters: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudamire, Kurt Thomas
Bench: Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Marcus Banks, Sean Marks, Pat Burke, James Jones, Eric Piatkowski

“The Stoudamire Conundrum” is what we call this one. Phoenix is clearly among the league’s most talented teams once again, and though they don’t quite have the depth of last season, they may yet be improved. We all know they’re the NBA’s highest scoring team, we all know Steve Nash has won two consecutive MVP’s, we all know they can shoot the rock. The question is, what will a full season of a healthy Amare do to this squad? Personally, I expect his impact to affect the team’s defense much more than its offense. They’ll still put up a ton of points, but with his interior defense he’ll be a big step in the right direction for them. They’ll also have a full season of a healthy Kurt Thomas, a very underrated center. I expect the Suns to challenge the Mavs for the #1 playoff spot in the West, and let’s hope we can watch those two powerhouses duke it out in the Western Conference Finals again.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Starters: Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman
Bench: Shaun Livingston, Tim Thomas, Aaron Williams, James Singleton, Quinton Ross, Zeljko Rebraca

Looking at a team like the Clippers makes me realize just how powerful the Western Conference is (and just how far Portland has to go). The Clippers are no better than the fourth or fifth best team in the West, but yet they’ve got everything you want in a basketball team: a leader PG who can penetrate and knock down shots, a do-everything small forward, a PF who can take over a game and dominate the post, and a big center who can defend, rebound, and score. They’ve also got impressive depth, with stud-in-waiting Shaun Livingston, big-man shooter Tim Thomas, as well as Williams and Ross. Replacing Radmanovic with Thomas this offseason is essentially a wash. I still maintain that LA has the third-best starting 5 in the NBA (behind Phoenix and Dallas), and if they can indeed land a top-4 seed, they could do some real damage in the playoffs. They were good last year, and Maggette and Livingston should be around for an entire season this year. How would you like to be the Spurs and staring a seven-game series with the Clippers in the face come second round of the playoffs? I sure wouldn’t.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

Starters: Smush Parker, Kobe Bryant, Vladmir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Bench: Sasha Vujacic, Aaron McKie, Luke Walton, Brian Cook, Chris Mihm, Jordan Farmar, Andrew Bynum

Ah, the hated Lakers. I can’t believe I’m putting a team with Smush Parker as its starting point guard and virtually no bench to finish third place in their division. But them’s the brakes. With Kobe Bryant around, anything is possible. I expect the Lakers to do similar things to what they did last year: hang around .500 for most of the season and end up fighting for one of the last three playoff spots. (If you consider that SA, Phx, Dal, Clips, and Denver are virtual locks and essentially the “big 5” in the West, that leaves three spots). Signing Radmanovic will be a nice addition for them – and although they overpaid, he can shoot the ball and will help open up a bit of space for Kobe and Lamar to do their things. Assuming that Brown can give them similar production to what he did last year, they’ll be a decent-but-not-great team again this year.

4. Golden State Warriors

Starters: Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Michael Pietrus, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy
Bench: Ike Diogu, Adonal Foyle, Dajuan Wagner, Keith McLeod, Andris Biedrins, Zarko Cabarkapa, Patrick O’Bryant

What a bizarre team to try and figure out. They’ve got a ton of talent on the team – both old (Davis, Murphy, Richardson) and young (Dunleavy, Pietrus, Diogu, O’Bryant). The talent is undeniable, but so are the holes in this team. They can’t shoot threes, and take WAY too many of them. They can’t get consistency out of Dunleavy or Diogu or Pietrus. They didn’t do a whole lot to improve the on-court personnel this offseason, essentially dumping Derek Fisher’s contract for a bunch of spare parts. But they did go out and add Don Nelson as their head coach. Now my blog partner here doesn’t buy that he’ll be good for much, but I can tell you from watching this team first-hand: he’ll remove the 5 wins that former coach Mike Montgomery cost them and add five more of his own. Upgrading to Nelson is in itself a 10-game improvement, and I think you’ll see a big part of that improvement come from Golden State’s 7-14 record in games decided by 3 points or less. Like the Lakers, Golden State will likely middle around or just below .500 for most of the season and end up duking it out for one of those last playoff spots.

5. Sacramento Kings

Starters: Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Kenny Thomas, Brad Miller
Bench: Francisco Garcia, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Vitaly Potapenko, John Salmons, Jason Hart, Loren Woods, Mo Taylor, Corliss Williamson

I look at this roster and I see mediocrity, from top to bottom. The Kings – so lauded for their depth in seasons past – have sadly become a bunch of spare parts. Mike Bibby is a decent point guard, but he tries to do too much at times and doesn’t have enough support to help during his off nights. Ron Artest is violently talented but crazy beyond belief. Brad Miller, Kenny Thomas, and Shareef’s skills are all diminishing before our eyes. The Kings do have some nice young parts in Martin and Garcia, but I truly expect Sacramento to take a major step back this year, and don’t be surprised if you see Bibby’s name get floated around the trade deadline.

Projected Order Of Finish:
1. Phoenix
2. LA Clippers
3. LA Lakers
4. Golden State
5. Sacramento

Next up: Northwest Division.

Big Pimpin'

I just heard the new Blazers ticket promotion on the radio driving to lunch and let me just say...wow! Apparently starring in the new episode of "Pimp's Up, Ho's Down" on HBO will be the 2006/07 Portland Trailblazers marketing team. In case you haven't heard this bad boy yet, I'll fill you in on the details, and yes, they're fantastic.

The Blazer Dancer Ticket Package features 4 games against the Lakers, Mavericks, Suns, and someone else (I was a bit distracted to hear the 4th team). With those 4 games you also get a "meet and great" with a Blazer dancer. Awesome. I do like the fact that they are no longer using any players in adds, no silly catch phrases, just a pseudo-date with one of their hot cheerleaders if you buy a 4 game package. This is a great precedent to set, can I hang with some Duck cheerleaders when I renew my Duck football tickets next year? I suppose that's a "no" since they won't be going the football equivalent of 21-61, maybe the Beavs can run this promotion for their fans.

One more thing, can someone ask Subterfuge Stevie where this fits on his 25 Pieces of Flair plan to fix the organization's image? Or was it the 25 Points of Light? I forget.

Update: I guess you get a swimsuit calendar too, this thing just keeps getting better and better. Here's the link:


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Can I Fire Jim?

Pre-season games usually don't give you much of an indication of anything, however last night's Blazer 99-89 loss at the hands of the Supersonics did actually show us a few things about our young team. Before we get into the enlightening details of the game, it should be mentioned that it's borderline criminal to run Zach Randolph out there for 36 minutes. He's not a mystery, he doesn't need the time, all you're doing is potentially wearing down that knee.

Now, a key thing we can take from this is that Jarret Jack played 31 minutes and Brandon Roy played 33. It's pretty clear that this is the starting backcourt, and the duo that is going to have to lead this team going forward. Jack had a very strong night, 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists to go along with a couple turnovers. He was 6 of 11 from the floor, very solid, he's your point guard. Roy did not have as stellar a debut, going 3 of 10 from the floor for 8 points, 2 boards, and 2 assists along with 4 turnovers.

It also appears that we might be ok at the reserve point spot. Dickau isn't totally worthless, and Rodriguez should be allowed to get his 6-10 minutes a night early in the season and gradually getting more and more as the season wears on. I'm genuinely excited about the point spot on this team.

Everyone else of note did basically what you'd expect, Joel and The All Star split 47 minutes with Joel starting, seems logical that this will continue. Outlaw stunk up the joint with 2 of 8 from the floor, a doughnut out of 3 from beyond the arc, although he did manage to grab 5 boards. Travis might be the most in favor of a Las Vegas franchise in the NBA, he'd have to get it written in his contract that he only plays in home games though. Webster also had a splendid evening, logging 19 minutes and grabbing 6 fouls along with his 7 points, no assists, no boards, and 2 turnovers. Anyone want to talk about the rookie small forward down in Charlotte? I didn't think so.

I was going to go off a diatribe about Subterfuge Stevie going on an extensive GM search where he interviewed...well...nobody, and hired himself as the GM. Fortunately, he'll hang himself in that spot and he doesn't need me to make fun of him today (don't worry, he'll get plenty of flogging in this space in the future). More importantly, they promoted, demoted, some kind of "moted" Pritchard to the Assistant to the Regional Manager position. He will now be known as Dwight Shrute going forward. Eventually I'm going to have to set up some kind of glossary on the side bar for all of my pet names for these clowns.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

2006-07 Western Conference Preview: Part 1/4

Today we begin our BlazersBlog Official Western Conference Preview. Well have four parts, one for each division and then a Blazers-specific preview.

Part 1: Soutwest Division.

Southwest Division Preview

The Western Conference’s Southwest Division is arguably the deepest division in basketball, with all five teams looking to be playoff-caliber in 2006-07. The class of the division, and 2/3 of the Conference’s powerhouse teams, will once again be San Antonio and Dallas. Is this finally the year that Dallas overtakes San Antonio and grabs the division championship? Meanwhile both NO/OKC and Houston have made major upgrades during the offseason and look to knock off Memphis. Fortunately for these teams, the NBA plays a balanced in-conference schedule, so the other Western Conference teams won’t have a leg up in that regard. This looks to be one of the most competitive and fun divisions to watch.


1. Dallas Mavericks

Starters: Devin Harris, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Dasagana Diop
Bench: Austin Croshere, Eric Dampier, Anthony Johnson, Greg Buckner, Devean George

On paper, the moves that Dallas made this offseason may not appear to be significant. The major changes were allowing Keith Van Horn to leave via free agency and trading Marquis Daniels for Austin Croshere. Any skills that departed with Van Horn they are replacing in Austin Croshere who will be a slight improvement over Van Horn, and does a better job of getting to the free throw line. The addition of Anthony Johnson gives them a flexible player who can run the point and give either Devin Harris or Jason Terry a breather off the bench. They can play small ball (with those three, Josh Howard and Nowtzki) or bring in size (Dampier, Croshere) to bang the interior. With one of the league’s top superstars in Dirk, two burgeoning stars in Howard and Harris, and Terry’s instant offense, I have very high expectation for Dallas again this season and expect them to not only win their division but gain a top-two seed and have a huge role in the dogfight that will be the Western Conference Playoffs. They’re a tier-1, title contending team.

2. San Antonio Spurs

Starters: Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Jackie Butler
Bench: Michael Finley, Brent Barry, Matt Bonner, Eric Williams, Francisco Elton, Jacque Vaughn, Beno Udrih

Every year the Spurs seem to lose someone of importance, and every year they manage to find a needle in a haystack and get the most out of their players. This year, however, I expect them to take a small step backwards. They’ve still got one of the most feared threesomes in the league with Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, and they got an absolute steal this offseason in pilfering Jackie Butler from the Knicks. That said, they simply don’t have the depth or the firepower to keep up with the Mavericks or the Suns during the regular season. San Antonio’s got the best defense in the West, and a full season of healthy Duncan and Ginobili will do them wonders. It’s a team built for the playoffs, and we’ll see their best basketball in May and June, not November through March.

3. Houston Rockets

Starters: Rafer Alston, Bonzi Wells, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, Yao Ming
Bench: David Wesley, Kirk Snyder, Vasilis Vanoulis, Luther Head, Juwon Howard

Due to the acquisition of Shane Battier and the signing of Bonzi Wells, there are a boatload of people who are suddenly picking Houston as a top-3 seed contender in the West. To me, they’re much improved, and a strong team, but no better than second tier. McGrady and Ming form a very nice 1-2 punch, and Bonzi Wells and Shane Battier are fantastic role players. I like Houston to take a step forward this year and make the playoffs (something I expected them to do last year), but in between McGrady’s inability to stay healthy, Bonzi’s pension for selfish play (and it will be another contract year for him), they’re still another piece or two away from contending.

4. New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets

Starters: Chris Paul, David West, Desmond Mason Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler,
Bench: Bobby Jackson, Hilton Armstrong, Cedric Simmons, Jannero Pargo

The Hornets went out this offseason and made a huge splash, dropping a bunch of cash to sign Peja Stojakovic and making a big trade to acquire Tyson Chandler. And when you’ve got a point guard like Chris Paul running the show, he makes both of those guys infinitely better. The Hornets did need to add some outside shooting, but that said I’m afraid that Stojakovic’s best days are behind him. In his prime he was a 6-10 shooting guard with a crazy-good jump shot and impressive quicks. Now? He’s a good shooter. They’re overpaying for what they’ll get from him NOW, let alone in five years. This isn’t baseball where a club can overpay a little to address a need. But my biggest problem with New Orleans is they didn’t do anything to address their two biggest weaknesses: low-post scoring (Chandler is a zero in this department) and perimeter defense (Stojakovic actually subtracts). They had a nice fun run last year but given some major concerns about their roster and throw in the fact that I believe Byron Scott to be a below-average coach, and I think this team will be fortunate to not finish last place in this tough division.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Starters: Damon Stoudamire, Mike Miller, Stromile Swift, Pau Gasol, Jake Tsakalidis
Bench: Rudy Gay, Brian Cardinal, Hakim Warrick, Chucky Atkins, Eddie Jones, Kyle Lowry

I have to hand it to Jerry West: he had the balls to tear this team down and rebuild. He traded Shane Battier for Rudy Gay, got rid of Bonzi Wells, let Bobby Jackson walk, and took a chance on Stromile Swift. He’s committing to rebuilding around Gasol, Miller, and Gay, which isn’t a bad threesome to build around. This Memphis team had made the playoffs two years in a row but clearly didn’t have the pieces to contend. They’ve got a couple of nice young players to build around and while this upcoming year could be rocky, I think they did the right thing in making major changes for the future. A lot of people think he won’t be around for too many more years so to sacrifice personal record for the long-term health of the franchise is admirable.

Projected Order Of Finish:
1. Dallas
2. San Antonio
3. Houston
4. New Orleans / Oklahoma City
5. Memphis

Next up: Later this week - Part 2, Pacific Division.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Front Office

This one could get a little complicated. They don't have a GM, they have a team president that is the "interim GM" only he's not actually trying to find anyone to be the GM, and they've got a director of player personnel that everyone thinks is a great candidate but isn't being given the job, and they've got an owner who likes to be involved in player decisions who's only real scouting technique is "wow, that guy can dunk hard". Jesus, kind of makes you dizzy doesn't it? Well, luckily, that's why I'm here, to try and sort out this mess. The Blazers season preview continues with a look at the front office, this is where the silver lining talk ends and the claws come out.

Subterfuge Stevie Patterson, the man responsible for it all. At least Bob's collection of jerks won games, you have to give him that. Subterfuge Stevie has managed to build a team with a slightly less jackass factor, only with about 30 less wins per season. Awesome. SS hired a GM, didn't let him make any decisions, and then fired him. Sounds like quite a boss, I'd rather work for Michael Scott at Dunder Mifflin. I particularly like the story in the Oregonian this morning when asked if they are actually looking for a GM and he countered essentially with "nope, next question". Let's just say he's not too high on my list right now. As long as he's in charge, I'm not sure how the franchise can ever get going again without falling ass backwards into a star (Roy, Oden). Other than being a stand off-ish jerk, a bad judge of talent (5 first round draft picks in 04 and 05, zero players in the rookie/soph game), and managing to detonate a once proud franchise faster than Rick Neuheisel, he's great.

Kevin Pritchard, the guy everyone thinks would make a great GM. It certainly appears that he's able to weasel his way in to some of the decisions, and judging by the track record of his boss, all the good ones are probably his doing. You just know he was furious when they drafted The Marcus and begged and pleaded for them to pick up Roy and they threw him a bone. I suppose I'd vote for him if I had to pick one guy to clean up this mess.

Nate, he has to be included here. I think he's done an admirable job with the collection of suck he's been given so far. Rumor has it he's in the inner circle and gets to at least say "hey guys, how about we actually get a backup center this season?" and they listen to him from time to time. As for his coaching, who knows really? I think he's better than Mo, worse than Dunleavy, and he doesn't do anything that makes me want to spike the television on my own head, so that's a plus. Overall, I'd say he's adequate.

Paul Allen, surprisingly, I don't have a whole lot of bad things to say about him. He's got his quirks, but I still truly believe that if the Blazers had a chance to compete, he'd spare no expense to try and win a title again. He's just been given some absurdly bad advise due to one awful hire in Subterfuge Stevie, but one bad hire that high up in an organization can burn the whole thing to the ground. I like Paul, and I think he's a good owner, despite what has gone on recently.

Needless to say, the front office is a serious problem. It's a slippery slope obviously, and maybe down the road I'll be wrong about this, but I'd rather tweak playoff teams and take my chances every year than lose 65 games every year and keep hoping to get lucky in the draft. They call it a lottery for a reason, a lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. The Blazers front office apparently is in dire need of a copy of Microsoft Excel.

Next up, the fearless Moderator of this board will be giving you his Western and Eastern Conference previews, followed by our general outlook on the Blazers upcoming season.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Forwards & Centers

I'll say this for Subterfuge Stevie and Pritchard, at least they generally grasp the concept that if your team isn't that great, you might as well crush teams on the boards and dumb down the game. It's not that fun to watch, but it is more competitive. The Blazers have built a nice group of front court depth, nobody is really that great, but they do rebound and everyone does something well. The season preview continues with a look at the forwards and centers:

Martell Webster. Word came out today that he will be playing SF until Miles is ready to go, I included him in the guards so I won't say much other than I am moderately interested to see Jack, Roy, and Webster grow as a group.

Darius Miles. The lightning rod. It's easy to get drunk on talent, and obviously Paul Allen was drunk when he ordered that deal for Miles (allegedly). He can still be great, can still dress at halftime after throwing a tantrum like a 5 year old girl, and can still not stay healthy. Best case scenario, he busts his ass and throws up a few triple doubles and we can trade him to the Knicks.

Z-bo. We all know what he can do, 20 & 10 guys are hard to find, but guys who play Fast & The Furious in downtown in front of the police station and stage 2 man bachelor parties are not. I'm pretty much at the end of my fuse with Zach, but because of his deal he will be tough to unload. I'm afraid we're stuck with him for a while, but at least he does have PER's of 19.98, 19.56, 18.68, and 16.94 the last 4 years. He's the only guy on the team that is legitimately above average right now, and if Roy is as good as we think he is, Zach could have a big year. Of course it came out today that he has Bells Palsy too. Terrific.

Joel Pryzbilla. Gosh, 5 years kind of seems like a lot doesn't it? It's just for the mid-level and that's about right. His PER's are 15.57 and 15.32 as a Blazer, he's basically a league average center signed for league average money. The years are scary. That being said, he could lead the league in blocked shots with about 41 per game if the Blazers have Rodriguez, Dixon, Webster, and Z-bo on the floor with him at any one time.

Raef LaFrenz, blah.

Jamaal Magloire. From now on he will be known as The All Star because of of the Oregonian. I would ordinarily ask if we can stop with the "All Star Center Jamaal Magloire" but since they keep after it, I'll play along in a snide, mocking fashion. It's not like he's Shaq or Yao. On the bright side they had a profile of The All Star a couple days ago and he said that he would have a problem if he wasn't the starter. Excellent. This guy should fit right in.

Travis Outlaw. Exhibit A for why you should never trust the Vegas Summer League.

The Marcus Aldridge. Jack, Roy, Morrison, Z-bo, Joel...sorry, just can't discuss The Marcus in rational terms right now.

So that's the front court. Lots of big bodies, Joel and The All Star are both really tough rebounders and defenders, Z-bo can obviously score and get you the garbage points off the offensive glass (highly underrated), and they clearly have a glaring weak spot at the small forward position. That being said, I expect the front court to at least be league average this season, particularly at the 4 and the 5. Small forward looks like a disaster but it's a long season, maybe Webster can knock down some shots, maybe Outlaw will actually be useful, or maybe they'll get someone in trade that can fill the gap for a year or two.

Next up...the front office.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I think...I need another drink...

Well, you are all going to have to wait another day to get the preview of the forwards and centers. It was going to be up today, but I've started hate drinking. Yes, Grady Little brought in a starter with two bulging discs in his back just to get some work in during a tie game in the bottom of the 7th. This was after the Dodgers had already got two guys thrown out at the plate on the same play. I didn't make that up. Your 2006 Los Angeles Dodgers playoff roster will apparently be brought to you by Chico's Bail Bonds, and yes, I'd rather have Buttermaker managing my team. So...you get to wait another day for the front court breakdown. I promise it will be up tomorrow. As for today, I love Scotch. Scotch, Scotch, Scotch, here it goes down. Down into my belly. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Guards

Welcome to the first installment of the Blazers Blog 2006/2007 Season Preview. I'm back in action after spending some time in Bandon playing golf. This preview will be coming to you in 5 parts, the guards, forwards/centers, coaching, front office, and finally the overall outlook. Yes, it's going to be a long year, Hollinger on ESPN called last year's team one of the worst NBA teams of the last decade, so that's fun. Get ready for a healthy dose of silver linings over the next week, and I'll try to keep the doomsday scenarios to a minimum. Without further delay, let's take a look at the guards for your 06/07 Portland Trailblazers as they stand right now:

Jarrett Jack. Now the starting point guard, strangely I'm fine with this. I had grown tired of Telfair's turnovers, injuries, and his almost Damon-like pounding it into the court until there were 5 seconds left on the shot clock. Jack, while not healthy all year, was still very solid for a rookie point guard, even more when you consider they were forced to play him at the 2 because he's the only guy who could guard anyone. Fortunately, he's one of the guys we have stats on. He played in 79 games, started 4, but shot 44% from the floor, 26% from beyond the arc (silver lining warning) but he was hampered by a ripped up ankle that prevented him from getting any lift. I expect this to go up at least past Derek Anderson levels, up around 37-39% this year. I think he could be a solid building block for the future, at worst he's a quality backup point guard long term.

Sergio Rodriguez. If you ask some, the future of the position. Spanish Chocolate, Spanish Fly, whatever you want to call him, he is a flashy distributor that will be fun to watch. My concern would be his size, listed at 6'3", 165, and the fact that he's a turnover machine. I expect to see a lot of oohs and aahs when he's in the game, but a lot of seat seeking missiles as well.

Dan Dickau. Not sure what he provides, injured and not so good in the first place. Maybe Subterfuge Stevie thought "everyone likes that one Gonzaga guy, maybe they won't be so pissed off that we passed on him in favor of Theo Ratliff v2.0 if we bring in another Zag".

Juan Dixon. Surprisingly good last year. He's still a mad gunner but at least he's serviceable. I don't have much to say about him, he's a known commodity. He'll get you 12 points on average but that's masked by 20 point games and 4 point ones just as often, as a bonus they'll be on the same amount of shots.

Martell Webster. I'm including him here because there's a lot to talk about with the front court and I see him more as a two than a three. I still can't believe Chris Paul isn't a Blazer because of him, but I'll get past it in about 15 years. Anyway, he did show promise late last year once he was allowed to play in garbage time. In April he averaged 29 minutes a night and had 14 points on 46% shooting from the floor, 32% from beyond the arc. Looks like a good shooter, intriguing, we'll see. Should get more minutes this year, jury is obviously still out.

Brandon Roy. Ahhhh the future. He's supposed to be the franchise savior, the Rookie of The Year, the guy who gives them some respectability again and is their first truly impact perimeter player since Clyde. I'm not quite that high on him, and not just because he's a Husky. I see him as a very solid player, and I'd suppose the ceiling would be like Manu without the flopping and the horrible BO. He cuts to the basket, passes well, hits jumpers, and plays solid D. If he turns into Manu, then we've really got something. Now we just need Tim Duncan to go with him, and looking at the team going into the season it looks like they're going to have a pretty good shot at getting the next Duncan, currently playing at The Ohio State University, Greg Oden.

Tomorrow, the Forwards/Centers.

Season Previews!

No we are not dead. We are, in fact, quite alive. And just to give you a little taste, your faithful writers here are BlazersBlog will be releasing the following over the course of the next week or so:

1. Blazers season preview, position-by-position
2. A rundown of the entire Western Conference, team-by-team
3. The first set of weekly power rankings
4. Moderator Mailbag, 06-07 style: version 1

So keep your eyes peeled. You'll see this stuff start to pop up in the next couple of days. In the meantime, enjoy those MLB playoffs and check back shortly.