Rumor: LaMarcus Aldridge more likely to leave Trail Blazers in free agency than people realize

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LaMarcus Aldridge said he wants to finish his career with the Trail Blazers.

He also rejected Portland’s contract-extension offer before the season.

Though that move was mostly financially motivated, it will allow him to hear pitches from other teams this summer.

And he might listen.

Ramona Shelburne on ESPN LA (hat tip: Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation):

I think LaMarcus Aldridge is actually a lot more in play than people think.

How can you really improve that group up in Portland? I think Neil has done a great job up there, but it’s Portland. He’s never quite fit in, and they’ve made it really clear that Damian Lillard is the face of their franchise.

Lillard being the face of the franchise might not bother Aldridge. Aldridge reportedly wanted to be traded a couple years ago, and though he denied that, he admitted to being “extremely frustrated.” Then Lillard emerged as Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey built a strong roster, and Aldridge got much happier.

But that doesn’t mean Aldridge will definitely re-sign with Portland.

The Spurs and Mavericks have been linked to the native Texan, and if he expresses a sincere desire to explore the market, he’ll draw plenty of other suitors.

That said, the Trail Blazers will probably retain him.

1. They’re really good, and they’ll be stronger once Wesley Matthews gets healthy (assuming they also re-sign him).

2. They can offer more money than anyone else.

If Aldridge re-signs, his max contract projects to be worth about $109 million. If he leaves, about $81 million.

Aldridge – especially if he’s unsure about staying in Portland – should consider signing a one-year contract.

Max contracts are divided into three tiers based on player experience – 0-6 years, 7-9 years and 10+ years. Aldridge has played nine seasons, so he’d become eligible for the highest tier in the summer of 2016 – right when the new national TV contracts will drastically raise the salary cap.

Here’s a projection of Aldridge could earn on max contracts by:

  • Re-signing this summer (red)
  • Signing elsewhere this summer (black)
  • Signing a one-year deal with Portland this summer and then re-signing (brown)
  • Signing a one-year deal with Portland this summer and then signing elsewhere (gray)

image

Season Re-sign Sign elsewhere 1+Re-sign 1+Sign elsewhere
2015-16 $19,027,800 $19,027,800 $19,027,800 $19,027,800
2016-17 $20,454,885 $19,884,051 $29,642,715 $29,642,715
2017-18 $21,881,970 $20,740,302 $31,865,919 $30,976,637
2018-19 $23,309,055 $21,596,553 $34,089,122 $32,310,559
2019-20 $24,736,140 $36,312,326 $33,644,482
2020-21 $38,535,530
Total $109,409,850 $81,248,706 $189,473,412 $145,602,194
Average $21,881,970 $20,312,177 $31,578,902 $29,120,439

Of course, there’s be risk in waiting a year. Aldridge turns 30 this summer, and he might not draw a max contract in the summer of 2016. His jump-shooting style seems to age reasonably well, but if he loses a step defensively or on the glass, that diminishes his value.

That could be another reason to stay in Portland, where a strong supporting cast keeps him in a role where he’s proven to succeed.

Most factors point to Aldridge re-signing, but it’s definitely not a lock.