Excepting some tinkering with the second-unit, the Trail Blazers are mostly the same team they were last year. That was a squad that emerged from the morass of the Western Conference, surged to the No. 3 seed and looked like they might be ready to take a run at the Warriors. Instead, they were run off the court in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Pelicans.
Without significant roster changes, the Blazers need to stave off regression and stagnation, shedding whatever psychological weight was assumed in last year’s playoff disappointment. Evern repeating what they did last year seems like a tall challenge. Of course, that clearly wasn’t enough and surpassing it seems highly unlikely. It’s hard not to root for the Blazers given their engaging talent and how hard they play, but some of the younger teams in the West seem ready to pass them by.