The Blazers finished third in the Western Conference (49-33) last year, which represented an eight-win improvement over 2016-17. While it looked like Portland was losing ground on the competition, the team outperformed expectations.
But the way in which the Pelicans unceremoniously dumped the Blazers out of the postseason once again raised the question about Portland's true ceiling.
With the regular-season schedule dropping Friday, here's a breakdown of the year ahead for the Blazers.
Season Opener: Thursday, Oct. 18, vs. Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET)
Championship Odds: 100-1 (via OddsShark)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Golden State Warriors: First Matchup at Home (Dec. 29)
That set off this exchange on Twitter (warning: NSFW language):
Durant's reaction to McCollum's comment was not entirely unwarranted.
The Blazers have a dynamic backcourt in McCollum and Damian Lillard, but much of the roster leaves something to be desired. General manager Neil Olshey might have blown Portland's championship window in 2016 by giving deals to Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner.
A year after getting swept by the Golden State Warriors, the Trail Blazers were 2-1 against the Dubs in the 2017-18 regular season. Especially after what Durant had to say, Portland should be carrying a chip on its shoulder during its head-to-head meetings with the Warriors in 2018-19.
Winning the regular-season series with Golden State wouldn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it would be a nice symbolic boost.
Los Angeles Lakers: First Matchup at Home (Oct. 18)
Throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the Trail Blazers' biggest rivals. With LeBron James' move to the Lakers, that rivalry may be rekindled again.
At the least, Los Angeles is again direct competition for a playoff spot in the West.
Before signing James, the Lakers were on the way up. They went 35-47 in 2017-18, their best record since 2012-13. Throw a four-time NBA MVP onto a roster that already included Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, and Los Angeles should be in the 45-to-50 win range.
The Blazers swept the Lakers in the regular season last year. It's unlikely to have that kind of head-to-head advantage for the second campaign in a row.
Forty-seven wins was the cutoff for the top eight in the West last season, and that may be close to the standard again given the depth in the conference.
Finishing anywhere between third and sixth should be the goal for Portland, since that will likely mean avoiding the Warriors or Houston Rockets until the Western Conference Finals.
While the Blazers could pull off another top-six finish, a level of regression should be expected.
In addition to the big jump the Lakers will make, the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder should improve. Paul Millsap appeared in just 38 games for Denver in his first year with the team, while Paul George will have a better connection with Russell Westbrook in his second season with the Thunder.
The San Antonio Spurs might even be a better team in 2018-19 too, since a full season of DeMar DeRozan is an upgrade over having Kawhi Leonard healthy for nine games.
Forecasting an eighth-place finish might seem extreme for a team that was third the year before, but only two games separated Portland from the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. The Blazers will see their record decline slightly while ensuring themselves playoff basketball for the sixth straight season.
Record Prediction: 46-36