The Blazers are a team in transition and rebuilding mode. They have one of the better young power forwards in the game with LaMarcus Aldridge but what is there beyond him?
The good news is that there are players in Portland who can help. Nicolas Batum is solid; a good defender, a floor-stretching shooter and a good passer. Wesley Matthews has also been good (though last season was rough in the shooting department). But most importantly, Damian Lillard looks like a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. Lillard is a deft scorer who appears able to take over the offense for long stretches, taking pressure off of Aldridge and (hopefully) setting Batum, Matthews and others up for success. Having a good, solid point guard is crucial for iffy teams; look at the difference between the Blazers with Andre Miller and the Blazers with Raymond Felton. Look at the difference between the Timberwolves before, during and after Ricky Rubio.
With that said, it probably wasn't the wisest way to keep Batum.
However ... in this situation, there was a third option that would have been better; getting legitimate assets back in a sign-and-trade. The Minnesota Timberwolves wanted Batum badly and were willing to go even higher than the contract they offered him. When the Blazers made public statements that they wanted to keep Batum, the Timberwolves began talking about a potential sign-and-trade where they would dangle Derrick Williams and future first-round picks. If the Blazers had continued negotiating, they could have easily received at least two excellent future assets, significantly improved their cap situation and put their rebuild on a simpler track. Instead, they let their own pride get in the way, refusing to negotiate with the Timberwolves because of bad blood from a previous deal two years ago.
Big picture, what can we expect in Portland?
Lacking talent, depth, and experience, the Blazers will offer a double dose of enthusiasm and speed, hoping it works. Most nights it won't. But this will be a learning experience for these young players. The goals of the season are clear: develop youth, figure out which guys can play and which can't, bide time until next season brings another draft pick and another shot to use cap space. The Blazers will have to keep Aldridge interested in the meantime, plus impart enough enthusiasm to fans to keep them from abandoning their seats in droves. Saving money and growing towards an indefinite future while training youngsters on the job and maintaining motivation...it's a tough balancing act.