Hollinger's Team Forecast: Portland Trail Blazers

Originally Published: October 2, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Go to: Offseason moves | Biggest strength | Biggest weakness | Outlook

My, how the mighty have fallen. Portland completed its five-year plunge from title contenders to doormats in 2005-06, finishing with only 21 wins and counting themselves lucky that they even won that many.

While the Blazers didn't have high hopes entering the year, they did maintain optimism that its stockpile of young talent would keep it in quasi-contention in the West and set a tone for future seasons under newly hired coach Nate McMillan. That seemed to be the case early in the year, as Darius Miles and Zach Randolph kept the team afloat during a respectable 5-7 start that included a win at Memphis and a 3-point loss to Detroit.

Zach Randolph
Sam Forencich/ Getty Images Zach Randolph has yet to live up to his big money contract.

However, the wheels came off in December when Miles checked out with knee trouble. He never really checked back in, playing listlessly when he returned and getting singled out by teammates for his apathy. Meanwhile, Randolph was either late or absent from several pre-game shootarounds and struggled to stay spry after offseason knee surgery.

Things quickly unraveled from there. Sebastian Telfair, who began the year as the team's point guard of the future, ended it as the point guard of the past -- he lost his job to Steve Blake a third of the way through the season and settled for scraps of playing time off the bench. Rookie forward Martell Webster provided little production and raised questions about Portland's decision to trade down from the No. 3 pick instead of taking Rookie of the Year Chris Paul. Promising young forward Travis Outlaw regressed in his third season, and none of the other kids took a step forward.

Meanwhile, fan support shriveled and owner Paul Allen publicly contemplated selling the team. The front office situation was unsettled as general manager John Nash found himself on thin ice. He was dismissed after the season, although in fairness it was team president Steve Patterson who had called most of the shots.