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After a BLAZING hot start (get it) opening 12 games, the Blazers find themselves slotted in the third seed of the Western Conference with a record of 9-3. The Blazers’ play so far has exceeded any expectations that most had for the team during the offseason, but it is important to remember that the season is still young. With that being said, what are some realistic expectations for this team, not only with their finish in the standings, but their playoff hopes as well?
Despite the hot start by the Blazers, getting home court advantage this year will be tougher than ever. Entering the year, it was expected that as many as 11 teams could compete for a playoff spot. Throw in Memphis emerging as a legit team, and you have a complete disaster. Even two of the three likely lottery teams, Dallas, and Sacramento(who are currently above .500), seem to be tough outs, which makes the Suns the only “easy” win throughout the the entire conference.
In years past, this would be a huge concern for Blazer fans due to their paltry bench contributions; fans used to hold their breath every time the second unit entered close games. With the improvements of Evan Turner and Zach Collins, as well as the additions of Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry, this weakness has turned into a strength. Despite the Blazers having the 3rd highest strength of schedule according to teamrankings.com, I feel confident that the Blazers can somewhat maintain their position in the standings, ending the year anywhere from the 3rd seed if things go our way, to the 6th seed if the team falters for a stretch of the season.
While regular season success is nice, playoff success is imperative for not only the fans, but for the future of the current regime in place. Another early playoff exit could lead to Neil Olshey and maybe even Terry Stotts on the hot seat with questions about their job security. With such a packed Western Conference and so little separation between teams, seeding will not be much of an advantage outside of the physical game location. While it is WAY too early to look at potential playoff matchups, based on the coaching, system, continuity, and depth of the team (and that Damian Lillard guy), this team should expect to advance to the second round. With the right matchup, it is not unrealistic to see the Blazers reach the Western Conference Finals. I want to reiterate that I am not expecting the Blazers to make the Conference Finals, but I think a run at the series win is not inconceivable.
What are your expectations for the team? Post your comments down below.
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