HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Making a graceful exit, whenever and however it happens, is probably out of the question for LaMarcus Aldridge. Let’s get that out of the way right now.
Aldridge might not have said the words himself, but a public demand for a trade isn’t necessary when his “camp” spends time in Las Vegas suggesting possible trade scenarios to Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, according to my main man Chris Haynes of CSNW.com.
This marriage seems headed for divorce at some point over the next year and a half. And it’s hard to fault Aldridge for seeking a fresh start at this stage of his career. When your contemporaries around the league are joining forces left and right and lining up for championship runs, being in the midst of continuous rebuilding situations in Portland does nothing for an All-Star’s title hopes.
There was a time, as recently as three years ago (before all of the injuries, tumult and roster and front office upheaval), when it looked like Aldridge might realize those dreams in Portland. But he’s the last man standing from that pre-Olshey era. Now he’s looking for a fresh start somewhere he can be a key piece on a playoff team, a contender even, albeit with two years and some $30 million remaining on his current deal.
But if Aldridge and the Trail Blazers are set for a split, amicable or not, snagging equal value for a 7-foot, 240-pound power forward that can play center in this small-ball phase the league is going through will be tough. At 27, Aldridge is still young enough to be slotted as one of a team’s frontcourt anchors for the next six or seven seasons.
Still, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding these reported trade suggestions. The names being thrown around, by one side or the other, will raise plenty of eyebrows:
Trading Aldridge for a collection of draft picks will not be an option.
Prospective teams holding the rights to Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford and Anthony Davis, as of now, have declined to involve their franchise players in any potential deals for Aldridge, a league source told CSNNW.com.
Unless something changes after Summer League, the likely development is Aldridge returning to Portland next season and having a strong year to increase the likelihood of Olshey pulling the trigger on a deal.
When Aldridge is a year removed from becoming a free agent, his camp will have more leverage than at the current time.
Aldridge could return for another season and pair up with Rookie of the Year-winning guard Damian Lillard and find himself in a situation that might be to his liking. Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson have been added to the mix, guys Olshey expects to do the “grit-and-grind” work to while preserving Aldridge from shouldering as much of the load as he’s had to the past three seasons. A run at a playoff spot could change Aldridge’s outlook on this team, which is why Olshey would be wise to hold off on serious trade talks for as long as he can.
But in a day and age when star players bolt from their incumbent franchises for all sorts of reasons, the Trail Blazers would have to listen if one of those aforementioned players were actually to become available.
Love grew up in suburban Portland and Griffin has connections to Olshey from their shared time with the Clippers. Both Noah and Horford are the kind of no-nonsense, hard-working players that could fit in anywhere. And Davis is a young talent with perhaps the highest ceiling of all.
With a huge free-agent summer of 2014 on the horizon already and a potentially monster 2014 Draft class in play as well, teams with proven commodities in the fold have to keep all of their options open these days.
And again, if these are the sorts of talents that could come into play at some point, Olshey would be obligated to at least explore the possibilities.
It’s only right, considering Aldridge’s camp is doing the same thing … exploring the possibilities.