The Blazers' position of most dire need, obviously, is point guard. Raymond Felton was a disaster, and is gone. Jamal Crawford isn't a PG, and needs a team with a strong locker room culture to thrive regardless. He's gone. Nolan Smith hasn't yet shown he's an NBA player (he's played well enough as a rookie to get another year, but he looks like a backup at best). Johnny Flynn is definitely a backup at best, and a mediocre one at that.
Unlike the center position, where you can deploy a power forward or big white stiff in a pinch and get away with it, teams absolutely require a primary ballhandler and distributor. You can shirk at the PG position if you have skilled passers and ballhandlers at the wing (Brandon Roy, for example); but the Blazers don't have that either--both Wes and Batum are far better off the ball than on it.
So Portland needs a point guard.
There's one young All-Star caliber point guard in the free agent crop--Deron Williams. It's widely assumed that he has no desire whatsoever to play in Portland, so we won't discuss him further. The draft is weak on PGs--there are two prospects at the position who may fall into the lottery, but no "can't miss" players like a Rose or a Paul.
Assuming DW is beyond our reach, the Blazers could play this in several ways:
- Go with an Old All-Star caliber point guard. Steve Nash is a free agent, and is rumored to be interested. He still seems to have something left in the tank; is a native of BC, and Portland is probably a better cultural fit for him than Phoenix--I imagine he has to bite his tongue quite a bit down there. Another, less likely possibility, might be for Dallas to send over Jason Kidd (who is not a FA)--Williams, a Dallas native, reportedly is interested in the Mavs, but they would have a hard time paying him without such a move.
- Go with a younger "solid" PG, whether via trade or free agency. Some names of players who are or may be available include Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry from Houston (that town may not be big enough for the both of 'em), Ramon Sessions, or Jose Calderon.
- Try to pull someone off the NBA scrap heap. Three years ago, Aaron Brooks was lighting the Blazers up in the playoffs, then it kind of fell apart for him. He didn't play in the NBA last year, opting to play in China during the lockout.
- Go through the draft. The two top PGs in the draft are Damian Lillard and Kendall Marshall. The former is a scoring PG who rings a few "tweener" bells--he carried the scoring load at Weber State, and isn't terribly well-regarded as a passer. OTOH, it was Weber State; he wasn't surrounded by great talent. The latter evokes memories of Mark Jackson--a brilliant playmaker, but one with a limited offensive game, who may not be able to keep NBA defenses honest.
Combining approaches may be worthwhile as well--the Blazers need more than just a starter (I'm not comfortable with Nolan or Flynn as the primary backup, either). Were the Blazers to acquire a Steve Nash, he's only got a few years left, so acquiring and grooming his successor might not be a bad idea--and the Blazers could pair him with Lillard or Marshall. The 2013 crop doesn't look very promsing either--there's no outstanding PG prospect among the incoming NCAA freshman class, if DraftExpress is to be believed. OTOH, there's a lot of college ball to be played between now and then.
The past seven years, since Damon Stoudamire left, the PG position for the Blazers appears to have been cursed. I've joked before is that the failure to draft Chris Paul was like Hogwarts' "failure" to hire Voldemort as the DADA teacher. Another often-suggested theory was that Nate McMillan was too hard on the position (or preferred players similar to himself)--that said, none of the PGs who have left Portland have gotten significantly better elsewhere. The most likely scenario is that the Blazers have scouted poorly at the position--a few "tweeners" have gotten looks over the years, though a tweener makes sense if you plan to pair him with Brandon Roy. With the current roster, the Blazers need a multi-way threat at the point, someone who is both credible as a passer and as a scorer.