Updated: Oct 29, 2018
Preseason is upon us and the Portland Trail Blazers have the opportunity to wipe away the pain and resentment from last seasons horrendous finish (I wouldn’t call a 1st round sweep by a 7th seed team anything else). While the team struggled in the post season, fan’s shouldn’t be to weary of the new season. Damian Lillard and company have a lot left in the tank and the season should be highly competitive in a conference that has seen some wild changed within the last few months of the off-season; we’re going to highlight a few of these games and hopefully get your mind right before the start of the season.
A few notes to accompany the madness of the 2018-2019 season ahead of us:
1. Schedule toughness: Portland has one of the highest schedule difficulties of all Western Conference teams with the cumulative winning percentage of opponents (records from last year) being 0.499. To all our dismay, the Trail Blazers play the Warriors, Thunder and Lakers four times each, all making significant changes over the off-season (more to come on these changes later in the article).
2. Contract Years: While the core of the future is still in place (Dame, 3J and The Bosnian Beast), Al-Farouq Aminu and notable free agent signing Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas are in contract years and depending on their performances, this year could cause a major riff in the future of this organization.
3. Rookie Responsibilities: Gary Trent Jr and Anfernee Simons, rookies drafted in the 2018 NBA Draft, have a great chance at carving their way into significant role with the second unit. Much like Zach Collins in his rookie year, their role will change throughout the season if the vets can lend a helping hand and mentor the youth.
AND SO IT BEGINS
Your Portland Trail Blazers tip off the season at the Moda Center versus the new and improved Los Angeles Lakers. In the biggest news of the off-season, Lebron James decided to take his talents to the West Coast in search for another ring and maybe a few movie gigs (see Space Jam 2). Chemistry with a new team is hard to gain, especially after a short summer and a wild free agency, but LeBron James is far more talented and adept than the average NBA free agent and will have no problem getting into a groove with his new team. So here’s where the trouble lies: Lakers were a border line playoff team with the second highest pace of play in the league. Now wielding the power and prowess of Lebron James, one of the best players to ever touch the court, the Laker/Trail Blazer rivalry will be more heated than ever before.
Note: What they don’t have is a 17 game home opener streak brought to you by the best fans in the league, at the Moda Center. There is a lot on the line for the Trail Blazers; this could make history.
Next Games: Saturday, November 3rd at the Moda Center, Wednesday, November 14th at the Staples Center & the second to last game of the season, Tuesday, April 9th at the Staple Center.
After a few games at home and a small stint on the road, the Trail Blazers find themselves back at home to face the thieves of last year’s playoff hopes, the New Orleans Pelicans. With a sour taste in their mouths after a completely unexpected sweep in the 1st Round of the Playoffs, you bet your ass the Blazers will be looking for heads come game time. It won’t be easy pickings though; the New Orleans Pelicans bolstered their back-court with the addition of former Laker, Julius Randle. Expect the bigs to have a tough game trying to handle the nasty duo of Davis and Randle, especially since the Blazers tend to play small ball with Al-Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins rotating at the 4 spot.
Next Games: Friday, January 18th at the Moda Center & Friday, March 15th at the Smoothie King Center
NEW LOOK SPURS
With all the drama surrounding Kawhi Leonard potentially sitting out a full season for the Spurs, they ended up finding a trade suitor, being the Toronto Raptors willing to separate from crowd favorite DeMar DeRozan. Adding to the already playoff ready Spurs, DeRozan looks to be the future of the franchise along side the infamous (you either love him or hate him) LaMarcus Aldridge. LA’s signature turn-around jumper coupled with DeMar’s ability to create his own shot from just about anywhere will become a challenge for the young Blazers. Time will tell, but as history can show us, DeMar DeRozan will be a scary addition to a division rival in the San Antonio Spurs.
Fun fact: Spurs Lead the Trail Blazers in all-time head to head match ups 84-82 . Nothing will come easy, but by the end of the season, the Trail Blazers could snatch the (metaphorical) belt from the Spurs.
Next Games: Thursday, February 7th at the Moda Center & Saturday, March 16th at AT&T Center
CHRISTMAS DAY SCARIES
Donovan Mitchell became the steal of the draft this last year, slotted at the 13th draft pick, just three picks after the Portland Trail Blazers selected rookie Zach Collins from Gonzaga; little did we know, Mitchell would turn into who many would agree to be the NBA Rookie of the Year. Last year the rook averaged a sweet 23.25 PPG versus the Blazers #YIKES; best believe he's the one to watch out for Christmas Day, looking to make a lasting impression on the millions watching.
Rookies aside, the Jazz battled their way into the second round of the Playoffs where they eventually succumbed to the two seed, Houston Rockets. Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert aka the Stifle Tower aka The French Rejection aka Gobzilla played a crucial role in their success and plans to have the same defensive aggression around the rim that he’s had since entering the league.
Next Games: Monday, January 21st at Vivint Smart Home Arena & Wednesday, January 30th at the Moda Center
PLAYOFF PUSH VS DENVER
Back-to-Back games versus the Denver Nuggets near the end of the year (April 5th and 7th) will most likely have some sort of playoff significance. The Nuggets were bumped out of playoff contention after losing the last game of the 2017-2018 season and are poised to make a run this year. With the addition of premier guard Isaiah Thomas as well as Nikola Jokic solidifying himself as a top tier big man, the Nuggets are sure to shake up the division. Keep an eye out for Will Barton, former fan favorite, aside Gary Harris as a scary tandem; both evolving their games and both looking to solidify their spot in the starting lineup. Get your oxygen masks ready because its going to be a sprint to the finish in the Mile High City come April.
Last two games vs Denver of the season
NOTABLE HOMECOMING GAMES
Early in the season, the Trail Blazers host the Milwaukee Bucks on November 6th; a homecoming game for former Trail Blazer bench legend, Pat Connaughton. Pat followed the money and landed a spot on the Bucks roster, hoping to get more playing time along side the Greek Freak and a playoff bound team.
The rest of the Trail Blazer departures found there way to Brooklyn like so many have in the past. Brooklyn now has three former Blazers: Shabazz Napier, Ed Davis and Allen Crabbe. All crowd favorites and all making a move to Brooklyn; should be a fun homecoming on Monday, March 25h at the Moda Center.
CHEERS TO THE SEASON
It’s up in the air whether the Portland Trail Blazers can sustain the level of play that ultimately led them to the playoffs. With the bench suffering significant free agency casualties during the off-season, the development of last year’s rookies will end up being the crux of their potential. However the season unfolds, Damian Lillard and company will hopefully have the same fiery mentality that helped them through a rough season last year. Raise a glass to the Western Conference, for it will be more competitive than it ever has been and let’s hope the Blazers can lock it down and finally make it past the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs.
Editor's Note: Yoooooooooooo if you liked what you read, please follow Blazer Gang on every social media platform to stay up to date with everything Portland Trail Blazers related. We're committed to forming the best community of RipCity fans and family and would love your support. Cheers to a fun filled season and let's hope for the best.
Chris Sibley - BlazerGang Seattle Rep