Trail Blazers 2018-19 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds, Record Predictions

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2018

PORTLAND, OR - FEBRUARY 8:  Damian Lillard #0 speaks to CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on February 8, 2018 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

A first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans put a damper on what was an otherwise positive 2017-18 season for the Portland Trail Blazers.

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.

              

2018-19 Details

Season Opener: Thursday, Oct. 18, vs. Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET)

Championship Odds: 100-1 (via OddsShark)

Full Schedule: NBA.com

                 

Top Matchups

Golden State Warriors: First Matchup at Home (Dec. 29)

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors dribbling the ball backs in on CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers during an NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on December 11, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER:
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Here's the perfect indication of where the Blazers are: Kevin Durant basically laughed at CJ McCollum when he suggested Portland could be a championship contender.

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)

Lonzo Ball #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends against Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the fourth quarter of a basketball game between the two teams at Staples Center on March 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

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.

                  

Prediction

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 1: Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers high fives teammates CJ McCollum #3 and Evan Turner #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 1, 2018 at the Moda Center Arena in Por
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

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         

Related

    Warriors Suspend Draymond 1 Game

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Warriors Suspend Draymond 1 Game

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: DeAndre Has 'Rubbed Teammates the Wrong Way'

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Report: DeAndre Has 'Rubbed Teammates the Wrong Way'

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report

    Dame (Knee) Missed Practice; Listed as Probable vs. Lakers

    Portland Trail Blazers logo
    Portland Trail Blazers

    Dame (Knee) Missed Practice; Listed as Probable vs. Lakers

    Blazer's Edge
    via Blazer's Edge

    Report: Dray Challenged KD About Free Agency

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Report: Dray Challenged KD About Free Agency

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report