The NBA offseason acquisition and trade period has officially begun, and that means every team in the league is scrambling to make the biggest splash. The Blazers are no exception, although what the team might choose to do and which players they decide to pursue probably won’t make the boldest headlines.
The Blazers are (hopefully) opting out of the Dwight Howard chase that has the Los Angeles Lakers in full sycophantic groveling mode, so that’s part of the reason they probably aren’t on the top line of a “NBA Free Agency/Trades” Google search.
Portland is also extremely short on unrestricted free agents, meaning not a single guy on the Blazers’ roster this summer is going to be lobbying, in the paper or in reality—whether those two things are mutually exclusive or not—to be released from their duties to Rip City. The Blazers have a couple free agent decisions to make but none of them amount to all that much.
So Portland probably won’t play much of a part in the run-and-gun, high-stakes gambling that is free agency, but there is an outside chance something major happens to the Blazers. And that outside chance consists of possibly making a trade that includes the Blazers’ most recent All-Star, LaMarcus Aldridge.
News around Portland lately is that Aldridge, if he had his druthers, would be suiting up for a team with a legitimate shot at an NBA title. Again, whether or not that’s true is for others to judge. What is true, though, is that trading the last standing member of the Brandon Roy/Greg Oden/LaMarcus Aldridge troika would be the biggest move, and maybe the biggest gamble, the Blazers have made in quite some time.
Before that happens, let's have a look and the good and the bad should the Blazers ship Aldridge and bid adieu to the Big Three that won an astounding 54 games way back in 2008-09...starting with the bad.
CONS FOR TRADING LAMARCUS
1. The Blazers lose LaMarcus Aldridge.
This seems pretty self-evident. When a team trades a player, that team no longer has that player. If Portland trades LaMarcus Aldridge, they ship a guy who has been called the best power forward in the league by some reputable sources. Whether or not LA is the best power forward playing right now is up for debate. What isn’t is that he’s an All-Star, he’s All-NBA caliber, and if he gets traded, he’s probably gone forever.
2. There’s almost no way the Blazers would get value back in the trade.
Very similar to losing L.A. if he’s traded, whatever the Blazers get in return won’t come close to the value LaMarcus currently offers his team. Take, for example, the trade the Blazers just executed which, when it becomes official, will bring to Portland the guy drafted one spot before Damian Lillard. Thomas Robinson comes from the Rockets to the Blazers in exchange for two future second round draft picks and the rights to two foreign players. What’s unknown is whether Robinson will prove out his No. 5 overall selection from last year’s draft, but he’s young and a freakish athlete. What is known is the Blazers gave up literally nothing, a total zero NBA minutes played, to get him. LaMarcus Aldridge should bring back more than picks and considerations, but he won’t bring back is an All-Star and top-three power forward.
3. Next season could be dreadful without Aldridge.
Two things happen if Aldridge is traded. First, the Blazers probably get a lot worse. Second, the Blazers probably go into full-on rebuilding mode and probably trade either Wesley Matthews or Nicolas Batum or maybe even both. Sure, losing a lot could position the Blazers well for next season’s blockbuster draft. And sure, only one team wins the title every season, and if the Blazers, 100-1 odds to win it all currently, aren’t one of those teams, why not tank? Well, because watching 82 games from a 20-win team is fun for absolutely nobody.
PROS FOR TRADING LAMARCUS
1. Aldridge is getting older, and the Blazers should be trying to get younger.
Damian Lillard is 22, newly minted Blazers CJ McCollum and Allan Crabbe are 21, Meyers Leonard is 21, Nicolas Batum is 24, Will Barton is 22. LaMarcus Aldridge is 27. NBA teams are trying to get young so by the time LeBron James is 30 and getting closer to his peak, they’ll be on the upswing. The Blazers have a young core if they subtract Aldridge. Add pieces like Thomas Robinson, 22, and whatever draft picks come back with an L.A. and/or Wesley Matthews, who is 26, trade, and the Blazers look like a team ready for the post-LeBron (or declining LeBron) NBA.
2. The Blazers become Damian Lillard’s team.
Forget the Dame City billboards for one minute, and imagine that, in reality, the Blazers are Aldridge’s team. He’s the major figure in the locker room, and as LaMarcus goes, so go the Blazers. With L.A. gone, one of the most promising young stars in the NBA is the unquestioned franchise player in Portland. That’s great for a lot of reasons, but chief among them might be that Lillard wants the role of franchise player, and it often seems like LaMarcus doesn’t. That Damian Lillard is already the Blazers’ franchise player is irrelevant to this column.
A counterpoint to the third con of trading Aldridge: If there is a season to tank, it’s this one. Notice how every team seems to actively trying to get worse heading into 2013-14? That’s because there’s a bumper crop coming for the 2014 draft. Watching the Blazers stumble through another awful season could be tough, even for the diehards. Watching the door finally close on a resurgent Blazers era that included three straight trips to the postseason and back-to-back seasons with 50 wins or more would be sad. Seeing Andrew Wiggins or Aaron Gordon in a Blazer jersey, however, would make it all worth it.