The Portland Trailblazers were not on anyone’s radar prior to this upcoming season. However, despite limited expectations, the team surpassed predictions with a solid 54-28 regular season record and made it to the conference semi-finals where the San Antonio Spurs ended the teams season. Much of this success was due to Portland’s franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge, and while it seems like a no brainer that both sides should stay together, the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement will likely cause the power forward to dismiss a contract extension at this juncture.
Prior to the all-star break, Aldridge was one of the few mentioned in the league to take the MVP award, along with LeBron James and eventual winner Kevin Durant. With stats of 23.2 ppg, 11.1 rpg, a steal and block per game, there was no question why. Not to mention that he brought a team many thought would be a middling or lottery squad to the top of the Western Conference early on in the season. Unfortunately though, the team started to fall apart when at two time periods during the season, Aldridge fell to injury, thus causing their star player to miss 13 games. As such, even when he returned, the team was never the same and struggled for most of the second half of the season until the playoffs, where they lit up the Houston Rockets in six games.
While it is unfortunate that Aldridge’s injury blew the momentum of their season, it ultimately did not derail the team, which had the unfortunate chore of going up against the now champion San Antonio Spurs. What was evident through the season and playoffs, which was when Aldridge shined, was that the Trail Blazers need their big man for the long haul. His offense is close to unguardable as he can hit long jumpers to in the post. Additionally, he is one of the more consistent rebounders in the NBA, and without him, there is no question that Portland simply would be a lottery team. However, unlike previous seasons, Aldridge sees that his team is improving and that they have a chance to be a contender in a year or two. He is in a prime position on a blossoming team along with Damian Lillard (20.7 ppg, 5.6 apg), Wesley Matthews (16.4 ppg), Nicolas Batum (13 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 5.1 apg) and center Robin Lopez (11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 1.7 bpg).
The problem is that it is not that easy to sign the big man to an extension this offseason. The way extensions are set up, Portland would only be able to offer Aldridge $55.5 million dollars over three years. However, if they wait to sign him to a max next year, they can offer him upwards of $108 million over five years. Yes, Aldridge most likely wants to stick with his team, which will in all likelihood be a force in the Western Conference for years to come. However, it does not take an accountant to figure out that he would be losing out on significant sums of money if he were to re-up this offseason. Granted, one never knows. After all, if Aldridge does sign to a smaller extension, it will allow Portland the financial muscle to strengthen the bench that they so badly need.
The Portland Trailblazers are on the rise. A significant reason for that increased play is due to one of the best power forwards in the game in that of LaMarcus Aldridge. While it is wishful thinking and smart for the Trailblazers to extend their franchise player, it is more likely that he will dismiss the contract extension offered to him.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey