Do the unthinkable?
In today’s NBA, super teams and Big Threes have become the new way to win, and with the superstars of the league controlling where they play, the teams and their owners have lost a lot of leverage when it comes to keeping their players around deep into the future.
Despite contractual obligations, the league’s best players have begun to realize that they can influence where they play in any given season, and with LaMarcus Aldridge being one of the game’s best power forwards, the Portland Trail Blazers could be next in a long line of teams to lose their best player.
There are two modes of thought that the rebuilding Blazers must consider as they approach LaMarcus Aldridge’s future free agency.
The first, and most desirable option, is to surround Aldridge with the best talent available to convince him to stay.
The team tried this during free agency, but was unsuccessful when the Indiana Pacers matched the max contract to all-star center Roy Hibbert.
All Aldridge can ask for is to be in a position to win, and if he has a talented roster surrounding him down the road, the idea of leaving should be long gone.
The problem here? Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers tried for years to surround LeBron James with talent, but when they failed to meet his expectations, he bolted for South Beach to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.
Free agency was designed to give players freedom, and if they don’t see what they like on their current team, they’ll find it elsewhere on the free-agent market.
The second train of thought has become the more popular one: trade your star player and get anything you can in return.
This is where players such as Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have controlled their own destinies by demanding trades and specifying where they want to play.
As soon as a player has established his wish list, all the leverage is gone, and the trade offers get worse and worse.
The only team that has truly gotten it right up to this point has to be the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz traded NBA megastar Deron Williams two years before his contract ended, and as a result, avoided seemingly all controversy.
They lost their star player, but they made the rebuilding process a civilized one and are were a playoff team once again in 2012.
It’s the Blazers move now
So what should the Trail Blazers do when it comes to Aldridge?
The 27-year-old is set to be a free agent in the 2015 offseason, but if he’s anxious enough for a change of scenery, it could be much earlier than that when we begin to hear grumbles of wanting out of Portland.
In Aldridge’s defense, we’ve never heard a peep out of him about wanting to escape Rip City, but as a cautious franchise with a fearful fan base, it’s important to recognize reality for what it is—a superstar driven league.
The best option is, of course, to go the Los Angeles Clippers route.
They feared losing Blake Griffin, they obtained Chris Paul and now they have their power forward locked up long-term.
The problem for Portland lies in one simple idea—Small Market Syndrome.
Portland is a great city with a fantastic community, but it simply doesn’t attract NBA superstars.
If the Blazers are unable to bring in top-tier talent—or Damian Lillard never develops the way they hope—they need to keep control of the situation and keep Aldridge from playing the role of general manager.
If Aldridge wants out, he’s going to get out.
The Blazers need to stay ahead of the game, and if Aldridge is going to leave in 2015, they need to be the ones in the driver’s seat.