Overall, I like the moves that have been made this off season. The hole in the middle has been filled, even if it is a stopgap on a good contract. The bench should be improved drastically, and none of the moves made have hampered the long term prospects of the franchise.
I think most people agree that this roster is most likely a 7 or 8 seed next season with a likely first round exit. I agree that this is the most likely scenario and I wouldn't be mad at that. I don't agree that a 7 or 8 seed is the best case for this roster next year. When looking at some of the things that could go right for the guys on this roster as well as comparing this roster to the "elite" teams in the west, there really is not much of a gap there.
If even a few of the following things go right and nothing else goes drastically wrong there is no reason that this team couldn't be competing for a top 4 spot in the west this year:
What if Lillard makes a slight jump in his production and efficiency next year? Maybe he improves his defense to average, becomes slightly more efficient on the offensive end, and turns the ball over less. These improvements are not impossible at all for a 2nd year player with the talent of Dame.
What if Wes can play similar to last year, but remain healthy, and his defense improves by having somewhat of a backstop behind him in Lopez?
What if Batum can become slightly more consistent and puts up similar numbers to the start of last year before his wrist injury?
What if LA is LA? Not much to say here except maybe with a winning roster he ups his game slightly, or proves to be a big time player in the playoffs.
What if Lopez improves from last year with better players around him and one more year of experience under his belt averaging 14/9/2?
What if CJ has a Dame-esque rookie season coming off the bench in a 6th man role? I know a rookie season like Dame's is rare, but it's not impossible that the prospect most compared to Dame has a Dame level rookie season with less pressure on him coming off the bench.
What if one of Crabbe, Barton, Claver turn out to be a competent 9th or 10th man in the rotation?
What if Dorrell Wright has a Golden State type year here coming off the bench, and being surrounded by much better players than the Sixers last year?
What if Trob shows some of the potential that made him the 5th overall pick and has a Farried/Hickson level season providing rebounding and energy off the bench?
What if Meyers continues to improve his efficient offensive game, and improves his defense to average?
I know most of these will not happen, but none of them individually are that far fetched. If a few of these break right, and nothing really goes wrong (serious injuries, regression by young guys) this team could be a top 4 team in the west this season, and still have a bright, flexible future.
Agree or disagree, in the comments try comparing this roster, or starters to the top teams in the west. I don't think there is much of a gap between the Blazers and those teams.
Just to get started take Memphis' starting lineup compared to the Blazers:
Lillard > Conley
Wes = Allen
Batum >> Tayshaun
LA > Z-Bo
Lopez <<<< Gasol
Obviously these are debatable, but this illustrates my point that there is not much of a gap.