Getting off to strong starts has been a year-to-year struggle for the Portland Trail Blazers, a task that figures to get no easier on the upcoming 2021-22 schedule. NBA.com’s John Schuhmann took an in-depth look at the regular season slate, illustrating how Portland could be one of the bigger victims this year.
Portland will find itself at a rest disadvantage, drawing the misfortune of being one of only three teams leaguewide with an eight-games-in-12-nights slate. Though, as Schuhmann also notes, aside from this stretch, teams will have more days of rest between games, which opens up times for potential practices, something that could be of major benefit with a first-year head coach in Chauncey Billups.
On the flip side of that, Billups will be tasked with weathering a tough storm and potential chatter right away. The Blazers will have the NBA’s toughest 20-game schedule to open the season. Here’s how Schuhmann assessed it:
With those numbers in mind, the Blazers could be under the microscope more than they already are. As the Blazers struggle to build a serious Western Conference contender around Damian Lillard, the point guard’s happiness in Portland will continue to be a story line, even though he’s under contract for at least two more years.
After a second straight season in the bottom five in defensive efficiency and a second straight first-round exit, the only major change made around Lillard was on the bench, where first-time head coach Chauncey Billups replaces Terry Stotts. And to add to the pressure, Billups and the Blazers will have to deal with the league’s toughest first 20 games.
The Blazers will play those 20 games against opponents that had a cumulative winning percentage of 0.542 last season, the highest mark for any team’s first 20. Portland’s first 20 games include three against the Clippers, and two each against the Nuggets, Sixers and Phoenix Suns. They also have games against the Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
As he also notes, Portland will have five back-to-backs over that stretch. Should they survive that, help will be on the way in late-November and into December, as they get 15 out of 19 games at the Moda Center.
Schuhmann also hits on opponent win percentages, the full number of back-to-backs, and rest advantage and disadvantage games, among much else in this piece.