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Should We Worry About LaMarcus Aldridge Leaving the Blazers?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

 

LaMarcus Aldridge, via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout the Portland Trail Blazers’ season, the status of LaMarcus Aldridge will be on the minds of the Rip City hopeful. I’m not talking about anything physical, however. It’s his contract situation that’s got some people nervous; Aldridge opted to play out the last year of his contract instead of signing an extension, becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

There have been opinions floating around the internet since Aldridge’s choice, saying he could go here or do that. Some amongst the Blazers’ followers are even suggesting that this is a “make or break year” in terms of Aldridge wanting to stay. It’s said that unless Portland does as well as last year--nay, even better (according to some)--Aldridge would leave the rainy Rose City in favor of the sunny deserts of Los Angeles, or one of the franchises in his home state of Texas, or even the New York Knicks, who are set to have (gasp!) actual cap space after this year.

Those same folks also are the ones saying Portland’s the team most likely to fall out of the postseason picture due to “regression to the mean,” or “their luck in terms of health can’t last.” Allow me to debunk (to some degree) those statements by saying that the Blazers’ offense is meant to be that efficient. 

Even when Damian Lillard’s shot was off Wednesday night against Oklahoma City, there was Aldridge to pick up the slack. The Thunder’s power forward, Serge Ibaka, is one of the finest defenders in the whole league, yet Aldridge devoured him and the Thunder’s overmatched centers like beef jerky. The offense will be fine, though the defense will still be the team’s weak point.

As for the Blazers’ wondrous luck with health: Remember Greg Oden? Remember Brandon Roy? WE WERE FRICKIN’ DUE!!!!!!! It was high time Portland had great luck with health, as the stat heads conveniently forget time and again. I agree that the Blazers won’t have four starters play 82 games again, but saying the team will miss the playoffs because they were lucky last year? Come on.

Anyway, I think Aldridge will stay after this year, despite him making his home in California in the offseason. He himself said before the season that the only reason he didn’t sign an extension was to guarantee himself more money when the new TV contract the NBA signed kicks in, meaning the players will make more. LeBron James, Kevin Love, and several other stars have done similar things; Aldridge’s decision wasn’t unusual, and he’s not a wishy-washy type of guy. 

I grant that most NBA players are very shallow people overall, but I don’t think Aldridge is cut from that cloth. If he were, he’d have demanded a trade before last year started like Kevin Love did from the Timberwolves. Aldridge, unlike Love, has proven himself to be a top option on a successful playoff team. You don’t just throw that away to go be a top option on a craptastic squad like the Lakers, or play third fiddle to a team like Houston - a team, by the way, Aldridge beat like a drum in last season’s playoffs. Warm weather is not that strong a lure, at least if you actually have guts.

LMA has a good thing going here, and he knows it. No other team will be either willing or able to cater to his unique game. The reason he’s so effective is his unsexy skill set; he’s as much a bore in All-Star Games as he is lethal in games that matter. (The All-Star Game dynamic translates over to Team USA as well. There are good reasons Aldridge never played for the national team). Assembling a super team around or with Aldridge wouldn’t work as well as it did/does for his contemporaries because his game is less malleable than Chris Bosh’s, or he’s older than Love or Blake Griffin.

Given his stated desire to play for a contending team, the Lakers and Knicks have to be out for now. Los Angeles is trapped in NBA hell as long as Kobe Bryant is on the team, but is looking to clear its roster in anticipation of the 2016 free agency summer. As Dwight Howard proved, however, the allure of Laker Land isn’t strong for my generation, and Byron Scott is a coach that both stinks and is critical of his players. That’s a combination that got him fired in New Orleans and Cleveland, and if he didn’t have strong connections to the Lakers in the past, he likely wouldn’t have an NBA job.

New York, on the other hand, could be an interesting landing spot for Aldridge. The triangle offense the Knicks are trying to install would be a great fit for LMA: it’s a triple-post formation, Aldridge is an underrated passer, and he obviously can score anywhere from the basket to the 3-point corner. 

The sticking point would be Carmelo Anthony. Melo would take large amounts of touches away from Aldridge, and he may not even be inclined to execute the triangle if this season turns into a disaster. Anthony and Aldridge also aren’t exactly enamored of each other, either. Aldridge also might not be able to get the max from New York, because they need the space to fill out the roster.

As for the Texas teams, San Antonio wouldn’t be interested, Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki for the next three seasons (and the big German should age very well), and Aldridge doesn’t need to join Houston because he can beat them. Given the Rockets’ mania for advanced stats, adding someone who plays mostly from the midrange like Aldridge would be a move laced with indescribable irony. I might actually die of laughter if Houston signed LaMarcus Midrange Aldridge.

Staying south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Florida teams wouldn’t have interest him (Orlando is rebuilding, and Miami has Chris Bosh), Atlanta isn’t an attractive destination despite the awesome nightlife, New Orleans has Anthony Davis, Destroyer of Worlds, and Memphis will cap itself out trying to retain Marc Gasol. 

If someone in the media mentions a potential landing spot for LaMarcus Aldridge, instead of getting nervous, feel free to laugh it off. He’s the kind of guy who could find success in several places (New York, with the triangle, would be one scenario the NBA fan in me would dearly love to see), but Portland’s where he fits best, with teammates that he’s played with for years, a big man in Robin Lopez who complements him perfectly, and a young man with ice in his veins whose game is an echo of another young guard Aldridge played with, once upon a time in Rip City.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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