The NBA’s Western Conference became even tougher after the Los Angeles Lakers added LeBron James in free agency. The Trail Blazers managed to claim the No. 3 seed in the playoffs last season, but the competition for home court advantage will be even stiffer in 2018-19. The Lakers likely ascension will mean that at least one Western Conference team that made the postseason last year will be watching the 2019 NBA Playoffs from home.
In the aftermath of James’ move, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer broke the the Western Conference hopefuls into tiers. The Blazers were listed among the “Playoffs or Bust” teams.
The Ringer went on to explain Portland’s placement:
Portland has an uneasy relationship with Damian Lillard, who went public with his gripes about the team’s direction last season. They have been in limbo since losing LaMarcus Aldridge, and there isn’t an obvious path out of the salary-cap hell they put themselves in during the summer of 2016. Money issues already cost them a key piece (Ed Davis) off their bench, and they could lose two more (Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton). Their only hope is the development of Zach Collins, whom they took with the no. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft to be their center of the future. If they miss the playoffs, Dame may demand a trade.
You can read Tjarks full assessment of the Western Conference at The Ringer.