Three suggestions for how the Blazers can best utilize their $13.5 million cap space, $2.65 million signing exception and draft picks to become a legitimate contender next year.
1. Sign a competent backup point guard with the $2.65 million exception.
Chances are good that Aaron Brooks, C.J. Watson, Eric Maynor and D.J. Augustin will all be in free agency this summer. Signing any one of them with the $2.65 million exception would fill a hole in the Blazers lineup while leaving cap space for acquiring a starting center and a backup wing.
You'd get a talented starting center for less than $8 million that plays both ends of the floor. You'd also free up cap space by trading the #10 pick so that, when all is said and done, you'd still be over $8 million under the cap to add a talented veteran wing.
3. Sign a 3-point shooting wing that can anchor the bench.
Kyle Korver, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Dorell Wright, J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo and Martell Webster will all be unrestricted free agents this summer. Trevor Ariza will have a $7.7 million player option and Wayne Ellington will have a $3.1 million qualifying offer. All shoot the 3-ball at or above the league average and would be huge upgrades. Also, most can be had for $4 to $7 million.
Personally, I think Dorell Wright and Trevor Ariza would make amazing 6th men. Both are about to hit their prime (they're 27), both rebound, both have major length (6'9 and 6'8, respectively) and both can defend. Ariza's player option is very expensive, but he's a legitimate floor spacer and, most importantly, the best defender of the bunch.
I think executing all three of these moves is well within the realm of possibility. All told, if the Blazers end up with a nine man rotation of Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldrige, Gortat, Freeland, Leonard, (along with, for example) Brooks and Wright, they would be more than just first-round fodder for the next few years.