Portland Trail Blazers

2018-19 NBA Season Preview: What to expect from the Portland Trail Blazers

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C.J. McCollum., Damian Lillard and Terry Stotts (Getty Images)

With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league, starting with the five teams in the Northwest Division.

After looking at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday on the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, here's everything you need to know about last year's division champion, the Portland Trail Blazers.

2017-18 season record

49-33 (No. 3 seed in the Western Conference)

Projected 2018-19 season record

41.5 wins (putting them outside the playoff race with the 10th-best record in the Western Conference)

Notable additions

Seth Curry (free agent)

Nik Stauskas (free agent)

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Anfernee Simons (24th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft)

Notable departures

Pat Connaughton (free agent)

Ed Davis (free agent)

Shabazz Napier (free agent)

3 key storylines

Responding to disappointment

After exceeding regular season expectations to win 49 games and earn the West's third seed, Portland's season came to a disappointing end in the form of a sweep at the hands of Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. The abrupt ending to an otherwise successful season has caused many to temper their expectations of the Trail Blazers once again.

How does Portland respond to being counted out for the second consecutive season? With large chips on their shoulders, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will need to come out of the gates firing in 2018-19 with eight of their first 10 opponents projected to make the playoffs this upcoming season.

Can McCollum become an All-Star?

Since bursting onto the scene as the league's Most Improved Player in 2015-16, McCollum has established himself as one of the league's premier perimeter scorers - his 21.4 points per game in 2017-18 were good for 10th among all guards in the league.

As the Western Conference becomes increasingly difficult to compete in, McCollum playing at an All-Star level will certainly keep Portland in the mix. It won't be easy, as the West is loaded at the guard position, but McCollum is on the fringe of taking that leap.

Implementing the youth

Portland's roster features nine players under the age of 25, six of whom (Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan, Wade Baldwin and Jake Layman) contributed to the team winning the 2018 Summer League Championship in Las Vegas. This group will now be looked upon to step up this season.

Collins, a lottery pick in 2017, is in a prime position to have a breakout season in year two, but in order to remain in playoff contention, Portland will need at least two more of its young players to make an impact.

5 games to watch

Oct. 18 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Portland has the privilege of hosting Los Angeles as LeBron James makes his Lakers debut. With all eyes on the Moda Center, can Portland play spoiler?

Nov. 1 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

It won't take long for the Blazers to get a rematch with the Pelicans, as they host New Orleans just two weeks into the season. With last season's sweep still fresh on their minds, Portland is certainly looking forward to this one.

Nov. 23 vs. Golden State Warriors

Lillard loves the big stage, so it's no surprise his best performances often come against the back-to-back champs. Last season, Lillard averaged 37.0 points and 6.0 assists against Golden State as the Blazers won the season series 2-1.

Expect another big performance as the first of this year's four-game series tips off in Lillard's hometown of Oakland.

Dec. 25 vs. Utah Jazz

For the first time since 2010, Portland will take part in the NBA's slate of Christmas Day games. The Blazers, who have the second-best Christmas record in league history (14-3), travel to Salt Lake City to face a Jazz team that looks to take the division crown this year.

Jan. 4 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The first of four games between the Blazers and Thunder isn't until the new year, but the point guard battle between Lillard and Westbrook is sure to be entertaining. Portland swept last year's regular-season series, giving Lillard the slight edge over Westbrook with an all-time record of 11-8.

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