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Trail Blazers Sit in Indistinct Middle Tier of the NBA Western Conference

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Portland is in the running for the 2019 NBA Playoffs, but what does that really mean?

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The race for the 2019 NBA Playoffs will be intense, particularly in the stacked Western Conference. The Portland Trail Blazers will be in the playoffs conversation, but according to Joe Morgan of Sporting News, that distinction does not distinguish them from their peers. When it comes to the race in the West, Portland is far from the front, forced to wait in line with a number of other hopefuls.

Morgan’s article cites the Golden State Warriors as the clear and obvious favorites to make the NBA Finals, with the Houston Rockets as the single, serious contender. Among the also-rans, Morgan lists the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, and the Trail Blazers. That’s eight teams vying for six spots, with little to separate them.

Morgan pays respect to Portland’s performance last season, before pointing to a mediocre summer as one reason they might not repeat the feat.

The Blazers finished the 2017-18 regular season as the No. 3 seed in the West and looked poised to make a run in the playoffs. But after getting swept by the Pelicans and failing to advance past the second round for the fifth consecutive season, the whispers are getting louder that the duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum may not last.

The loss of center Ed Davis in free agency will hurt (third in win shares last season behind Lillard and McCollum), but the Blazers will be in the mix for a playoff spot. If they wind up being the odd team out, the calls to trade one of Lillard or McCollum (more likely CJ) will be coming.

Both Lillard and McCollum are signed through the summer of 2021.