As of today, March 5th, the Blazers are sitting in 8th place in the standings, at 10 games ahead of .500, with 37 wins and 27 losses. Though several posts (and I'm sure many of you Blazersedgers out there) believe we could make a substantial jump in the standings all the way up to 4th place, I find that a little unattainable. More realistically, based on jscot's many brilliant schedule breakdowns and other posts I've flipped through, I believe we are most likely to land in 7th place at the end of the year (pushing SA Spurs back into 8th), though we could stay in 8th place, and last but not least, even make it to 6th place if the young OKC Blunder fall in their tough rest-of-the-year schedule.
Based on the standing as they are today, we see the following:
2nd: Dallas at 5 games back
3rd: Denver 5.5 back
4th: Utah 6.5 back
5th: Phoenix 8 games back
Now, I have included Phoenix in the list because they have by-far the easiest schedule ahead, allowing for a possible jump into 4th or even 3rd position, and though OKC is only a game back from the Suns, their remaining schedule is much, much tougher, and therefore more unlikely to jump up in the rankings, but rather fall farther back (See jscot's recommended posts).
The likelihood that we land in 8th place I see at about 25% (rather than 7th or 6th place). In this regard, we would most likely face the LA L*kers. Against them this season, we are 1-1, winning the first game at home 107-98, and losing the second game at Staples Center 82-99. The remaining game will be played April 11th in LA.
The thing about the Lakers is that we tend to match-up reasonably well against them, especially at home. True, the Staples Center is one of the toughest places to play at, but so is the Rose Garden. Phil Jackson has also been widely heard praising our young and up-and-coming team, having mentioned previously when questioned about the Cavaliers pickup of Antwan Jamison that he was more worried about the acquisition of Marcus Camby by the Blazers.
Personally, I do not see a Blazers-L*kers match-up as necessarily bad for us, as you have to beat the best to get better, and we certainly scare the L*kers more than any other team in the Western Conference.
I give the Blazers about a 65% chance of landing in 7th place, therefore most likely facing (in order) 1.)Dallas, 2.) Denver, or 3.) Utah. Now, we have played Dallas twice this year, going 2-0, winning at Dallas 85-81 and again 114-112. We face them twice more at home, and it looks like we have certainly played them pretty well this year, though their recent acquisitions (Butler, Haywood, Stevenson) in my opinion make them a much tougher team, though you must factor in our pickup of Camby.
Denver, on the other hand, we have played three times and come out 2-1, playing them three times at home. We won 98-96, lost 94-97, and won 107-96. We play them again on Sunday at Denver. And to be perfectly honest, Carmelo, Chauncy, and Smith worry me, as they tend to be a great closing team, however they tend to have plenty of mental issues on the team.
We have lost to Utah 6 times this year, three times at the RG and three times at Utah. Boozer has been playing great basketball, and Deron Williams is like a B-version of Brandon Roy. Not to mention how badly the Blazers wanted Paul Millsap. It's safe to say I DO NOT want to see Utah in the first round, period.
Lastly, the Suns. We have beaten them three times this year, 108-101 and 113-93 at Phoenix, and 105-102 at home. We play them again on March 21st. I think the Suns are a weak team, especially closing out games, but they have been playing their best ball of the season lately, and Amare has been amazing (I was hoping he'd be traded to the Eastern Conference). Plus, you gotta hand it to 35 year old Steve Nash, one awesome dude (have you seen his Vitamin Water commercials? Hilarious). If they make a big push this time of the year, and land in third place, and we land in 6th place, we could possibly match-up quite well with them.
In summation, I'd like to see the Blazers play (in order) Dallas, Phoenix, L*kers, Denver, then Utah. I think Utah is playing the best ball in the Western Conference, but with the return of Brandon Roy and the acquisition of Marcus Camby, we can potentially beat anyone, no matter our seed or theirs.