The Portland Trail Blazers began the 2013-14 NBA season with moderately high hopes. "Expectations are the playoffs, and beyond," head coach Terry Stotts said, according to The Oregonian's Mike Tokito.
However, per Tokito's report, guys such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Earl Watson were cognizant of the fact that the team was still young and the conference was brutally competitive.
A hot start changed that perspective, and the goal has shifted from simply qualifying to earning home-court advantage.
At this juncture, it's safe to say that the Blazers can beat anybody on any given night. They've taken down virtually every elite squad there is (with the exception of the Miami Heat), and despite falling back to earth after a 24-5 start, they still own the sixth-best record in the entire Association.
We'll look at five teams the Blazers would most want to see in the first round. Conversely, we'll leave off squads that will provide the most trouble in the playoffs (see: Oklahoma City Thunder), as well as franchises that are likely to miss the postseason (see: Minnesota Timberwolves).
Rip City is in the midst of a revival, meaning making the playoffs is no longer good enough. Finding the best matchup is crucial, as this fanbase is hungry to taste the second round for the first time since 2000.
*Rankings, standings and statistics are current as of Feb. 25, 2014.