trailblazers

Should the Blazers look to part with Aldridge?

Long enough?

Although the 2014-15 NBA season has just entered the preseason schedule, questions of what will (or should) happen with Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge are plentiful.

Next summer, LaMarcus Aldridge joins a group of elite unrestricted free agents (Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol to name a few).  Flash back just a summer or two ago — pre Damian Lillard — and the Blazers forward was looking for a new place to hang his hat.

Could the Portland Trail Blazers look to trade LaMarcus Aldridge?

Could the Portland Trail Blazers look to trade LaMarcus Aldridge?

Not pleased with the lack of success that the team was experiencing, Aldridge and his agent were on the lookout for greener pastures — possibly a city that is not as “small and boring” as Aldridge once tagged Portland.

Funny how winning makes one feel better. Thanks in large part to Damian Lillard‘s last-second heroics, the Blazers pushed past the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last year and followed it up by a not-as-competitive series against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.  Despite the loss, the feel-good vibes were flowing in Portland’s locker room, the head office and throughout RipCity.

With the return to the playoffs, so too returned Aldridge’s favoring of remaining in a Blazers uniform.

Well, that and the ability to rake in $108 million.

Entering his ninth year in the league, the three-time All-star has been a mainstay on the Blazers roster since coming over in a draft-day steal for the long forgotten Tyrus Thomas. Come and gone have been everything from All-star talents like Zach Randolph to projected game-changers like Greg Oden.  Even hometown (or as close as one could get) heroes like Brandon Roy and Jamal Crawford both saw their time with the Blazers get cut short for various reasons.

Through it all, LaMarcus stayed put with hopes of a brighter future.  However, with that all being said, since LA arrived in 2006, the Blazers have missed the playoffs four times. They also lost in the first round three times before last season’s run to the Western Conference Semifinals.

So maybe a change of venue would help both the team and the player.

Next summer, the Blazers and Aldridge face a major decision for both the franchise and player (not to mention also having to look at resigning Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez).  Yes, statistically and physically LA has been the leader of the franchise both on and off the court, but what has that really amounted to over the past eight seasons?  Sure, it’s unfair to blame the team’s shortcomings completely on Aldridge, as he can’t control the health of teammates or all the front office decisions.

Aldridge has adimately stated that he will re-sign with the Blazers next summer when his contract is officially in need of renewal and the team can sign him to a larger, longer term contract under the Larry Bird rights.

Fill in the blank. The future of Rip City is ________? Photo: Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Fill in the blank. The future of Rip City is ________? (Photo: Sam Forencich/Getty Images)

So what if the Blazers happen to take a step backward instead of forward this season?  Is it fair to say that maybe a new direction is needed?  Aldridge has been nothing less than a model citizen in Oregon, but everyone knows that sports is a business and loyalty isn’t necessarily in some owners and general managers vocabulary.

Could the team “rebuild” yet again around Lillard?  Let’s face it, other than its young point guard, Aldridge has the best trade value of anyone on the Blazers roster.   With Kevin Love signing in Cleveland and Pau Gasol inking a deal with Chicago, where could LA end up?  The Lakers just drafted their power forward of the future, Miami kept theirs when a certain Cleveland native bounced.  Dallas?  Maybe.  Detroit has a disgruntled front line.  Golden State?  Wouldn’t that be fun!  Sure, Aldridge would end up losing some cash if he were to leave Portland, but playing for Mark Cuban or running alongside Steph Curry could make up for it.

The bigger story would be who could the Blazers get in return to fill the power forward void?  Greg Monroe?  A package of David Lee and Harrison Barnes?  Would Atlanta be willing to move Al Horford in order to have a different look?

A package of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson would be intriguing, but not unless the Blazers brass are willing to take a chance that Waiters causes friction with Lillard as he has with Kyrie Irving.

Or maybe the Blazers take a flyer on free agency next summer and grab a couple of pieces for the $21 million per ($108 million for 5 years) that they would be paying to Aldridge. Making this even more of a possibility is that general manager Neil Olshey has been planning for Aldridge’s potential departure, and as a result, more than half the roster will be restricted or unrestricted free agents in 2015.

Yes some of these ideas are far fetched, but regardless the options are worth exploring even as a safety precaution.

Do the Blazers have to win the championship this year for Aldridge to stay in town?  No.  However, anything less than an appearance in the Western Conference Finals could be viewed by some as the pinnacle that this group could reach.

IF the Blazers brass get any sense of discontent on LA’s behalf, right or wrong, exploring a trade before losing out might just be something that GM Neil Olshey may have to consider.

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About Steve Lee

Steve is a 12 year writing vet, and writes for a number of sports sites, offering a unique and abstract look at the games we love. He still hopes the Grizz + Sonics return to the Northwest, and has been a Lakers fan since "Showtime".
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