But what if?...
Rumors that there will be an amnesty clause that will wipe a players' salary off the books have picked up steam lately. Portland would have one of the most heart-wrenching decisions with Brandon Roy. If they decide to let him go, that would open the door to serious cap-space.
Assuming Oden picks up his QO like he seems likely to do. He will join Camby and Felton as expiring contracts. That would leave us with about $36 million in committed salaries to LMA, Gerald (assuming he picks up his option), We$, Babbit, Williams, and Smith. Nic's QO would also be held against us, at $3 million.
The current salary cap is at $58 million. I realize that may change, but if that changes than player salaries will likely change as well. So I'll just use the current salary cap for now. That leaves us with about $19 million in cap room.
While the 2012 class is deep and talented, it is Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams that will really be coveted.
Let's pretend that the superstars care as much about winning as they say. If they choose to test the free agent market, there will be few options. Not many will have cap-space and a winning team. If the sign-and-trade is gone, their options will be further limited.
Dwight would be my first choice, as the obvious best center in the NBA. But with his personality, I have a hard time seeing him come to a small, far-off city like Portland. Paul is loyal to New Orleans, and if he leaves we may have a chance but he also seems to prefer playing in a bigger market if he leaves.
Williams seems to genuinely care the most about winning. The idea of playing alongside Aldridge and Wallace may intrigue him, and Portland would seem like paradise after enduring years in Utah. Former teammate Matthews and friend LMA could take him out to dinner a few times and talk him in to it. Out of the big three, he seems to be the most likely, just a little over Paul, to sign in Portland.
Under current rules, $19 million would be more than enough to offer Williams a max contract. With the age of three max-level players likely gone, Aldridge, Wallace, and Matthews may very well be the best supporting cast available. The competitive Williams may even accept $15-16 million to allow another small signing, similar to the Heat big three.
Our obvious need would be big-men. Sadly, that is not a strong position in the UFA class. We could use the remaining space to sign a filler like Ronny Turiaf.
There are a plethora of veterans who may be willing to sign for less to play for a contender. Nash, Duncan, Garnett, Allen, Kidd, and Terry are all probably either looking to make more money or finish their careers with their respective teams.
However, there are slightly smaller names that may sign for the minimum. Camby may stick it out one more year playing smaller minutes for a chance at a championship with Portland. Jermaine O'Neal is also in a similar situation, approaching retirement without a championship, and could contribute with limited minutes. Antawn Jamison has been very unfortunate in the teams that he has played for and also may want one shot at a championship.
Having retained the rights to Batum, we could re-sign him once we used our cap-space. It would then be easy to fill out our roster with a combination of veterans jumping on the championship wagon and younger players.
(Yes, I did just write four paragraphs on filling out our roster after signing Deron Williams. Stupid lockout).
Imagine Aldridge, Wallace, and Batum playing alongside a superstar point guard?