Taking the L-Train Out: Free Agency Options for LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015


Image from youtube.com

Image from youtube.com

Recently, rumors have been swirling around the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge and his plans for the 2015 free agency. Some have anticipated his signing with the Los Angeles Lakers or the New York Knicks, both of which are huge markets. Others have predicted that Aldridge will return to Texas,the state he was raised in and played college basketball for. There’s a lot of trajectories that Aldridge could take this off season, including the possibility that he’ll stay put in Rip City. Here’s a couple approaches that superstars have used in the past.

The Decision: Lebron James
The quickest way to burn bridges in the NBA is to make drama when you leave your team. Lebron James did so with The Decision, a televised event now regarded with infamy. Some of the marked characteristics of this type of departure include seeking attention and an inflated ego. Neither of these traits would really be used to describe LaMarcus Aldridge despite his declaration that he hopes to become the best Blazer of all time. This approach would require going to a winning team and forming a big three. Since the Celtics and the Heat both drew two players each from other teams to create their big threes, Aldridge could potentially make a big three with any winning playoff team save those that already have a big three (Cleveland) or those that do not have the CAP room.

The Return: Lebron James
Lebron James sure has done a lot of interesting things with the NBA free agency. With this approach, Lebron returned to the Cavs, mending what seemed to be an insurmountable rift between the franchise and himself. If Aldridge were to adopt the Return into his free agency repertoire, he would have the benefit of not returning to potentially hostile waters. He would be making his first return to his hometown of Dallas. This type of free agency practice has been rumored to be on the mind of Kevin Durant as well but that’s only speculation much like this is. If Aldridge were to return to Dallas, he’d basically be ringing the death knell for Dirk Nowitzki’s career and ushering the international phenomenon retirement.

The Re-Signing: Carmelo Anthony
First, re-signing isn’t something that is emphatically Melo. The reason I chose Carmelo Anthony as the approach LaMarcus Aldridge would take to re-signing is because he stayed put when a lot of people expected him to bolt to either the Chicago Bulls or the Los Angeles Lakers. The momentum of discourse surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge is leaning toward his departure due to playoff woes. This path makes more sense than most even with the Blazers’ struggles to get into the Conference finals. The most rumored teams to pursue Aldridge include the Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, and Spurs. For the sake of success, the only team that would give Aldridge at shot at a title would be the Spurs. The Lakers and Knicks are both at early stages of rebuilding. The Mavericks, despite being Aldridge’s hometown team, are a mess from team chemistry issues mostly involving Rajon Rondo. Portland makes a lot of sense because they are a playoff team and, when healthy, they can play with almost anyone. They’re also the team that Aldridge came into the NBA with so the roots run deep for Aldridge in Portland.

The Trash-Talking Exit/The Big Market: Goran Dragic
Goran Dragic didn’t exactly win any more fans in Phoenix when he coupled his requests to be traded with allegations that Phoenix did him wrong and that he no longer trusted the organization. From the outside, this made sense because Phoenix had been playing the dangerous game of juggling three point guards. Nonetheless, Dragic’s words came across as harsh to Suns fans, a fact that Dragic himself later recognized and came to regret. When asked which teams he desired to be traded to, Dragic responded with the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, or the Los Angeles Lakers. What do these three teams have in common? They’re huge markets. In fact, all of the aforementioned teams are featured in this year’s top ten most valuable NBA franchises with the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks nabbing the top two spots.
I’m a little hesitant about this path for Aldridge. In the past, Aldridge hasn’t listed market as being a particularly big motivator. When Aldridge was rumored to be dissatisfied with Portland last year, he primarily concerned himself with roster management and the lack of veterans on the team. Portland acquiesced and, in doing so, quelled the rumors that Aldridge was an unhappy man….until now. For the reasons I’ve described, this is the second least likely approach we will see in the off season, only behind the Decision.

The Dirk Nowitzki: Dirk Nowitzki
Remember how Chandler Parsons left Houston for Dallas? Dirk Nowitzki, and arguably Daryl Morey, were the most responsible individuals for that move. Despite being hounded by the Lakers and the Rockets, Dirk not only stayed with the Mavs but chose to take a significant pay cut. Keep in mind, Kobe re-signed with the Lakers for a whopping two-year, $48.5 million contract. With Dirk signing a three-year, $25 million contract, the Mavs hypothetically stood a chance at competing in the West. This approach is pretty rare even among players who are extremely dedicated to their franchises. This could happen with Aldridge though he’d have to feel that he’d be getting something in return for both giving up money and staying put. There’d need to be a Chandler Parsons-esque incentive.

The Contender: Pau Gasol
It should go without saying at this point that a majority of these free agency practices has been done before. In 2003, Karl Malone left the Jazz (which he had played for his entire career) to join a star-studded lineup. The reason? Championship potential. Of course, the reason for Pau Gasol leaving the Lakers has a lot more to it than the case of Malone. Nonetheless, Gasol undeniably went from a rebuilding franchise to a title contender (the latter of which is more up for debate than the former). This path would make sense for Aldridge considering he’s never made it past the second round in the Playoffs. At the same time though, Aldridge has only missed the playoffs the first two years of his career and the two year stretch following Brandon Roy’s unforeseen retirement. The problem with the contender path is that most contending teams either have established power forwards or do not have the money it takes to sign on a player like Aldridge.

The Chinese MVP: Stephon Marbury
Yeah….this isn’t going to happen. Rule of thumb: NBA players only play abroad when there’s a lockout or when their career is on the fritz in the States. In Marbury’s last year in the NBA, he averaged 3.8 points, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 rebounds per game. Safe to say, Aldridge has a while before the CBA could even be on his radar. In all likeliness, Aldridge will never play abroad. He didn’t even choose that option during the most recent lockout in 2011.

What Will Aldridge Do?
This is tough to judge because outside of media reports, there hasn’t necessarily been much discontent from the horse’s mouth. Aldridge has noted some severe struggles for Portland against Memphis but other than that, he hasn’t explicitly stated that he wants to leave. That’s not to say that the case for Aldridge leaving is based on fabrications. Players on the Portland roster have begun to speculate whether Aldridge would return. It’s hard for me to predict where Aldridge will go because I’m a little too close to the problem. I’m a born-and-bred Blazers fan. I’d like to believe that Aldridge will stay with us but that could just be wishful thinking. In the end, Aldridge will do what is best for him.

Works Cited
Badenhausen, Kurt. “Lakers Top 2015 List of NBA’s Most Valuable Teams.” Forbes. Forbes.com LLC, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
“Dirk Nowitzki Contract.” Spotrac. USA Today Sports Media Group, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Feldman, Dan. “Report: Lakers and Knicks will Chase LaMarcus Aldridge in Free Agency.” Pro Basketball Talk. NBC Sports, 8 Jul. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Freeman, Joe. “LaMarcus Aldridge Pledges to Sign Contract Extension with Trail Blazers Next Summer.” Oregon Live. Oregon Live LLC, 8 Jul. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Herbert, James. “Report: Blazers Worried LaMarcus Aldridge Will Leave in Free Agency.” CBS Sports. CBS Interactive, 20 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
“Kobe Bryant Contract.” Spotrac. USA Today Sports Media Group, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Newport, Kyle. “Dirk Nowitzki Says New Teammate Chandler Parsons Owes Him Dinner All Year Long.” Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report Inc, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Press, Associated. “Goran Dragic: Trust in Suns is Shot.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Shorr-Parks, Eliot. “Report: Phoenix Suns’ Goran Dragic Wants to be Traded to Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, or Knicks.” NJ. New Jersey On-Line LLC, 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
“Stephon Marbury Stats.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.
Zwerling, Jared. “Goran Dragic Regrets Being Harsh on Suns’ Management.” Real GM. Real GM LLC, 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.

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