Yesterday, David offered his thoughts on why the Blazers must trade LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m here to offer the opposite perspective, and explain why the Blazers shouldn’t trade their star power forward.
The decision on whether or not to trade Aldridge starts with whether or not he’s willing to stay. If he’s not willing to stay, there’s no point in keeping him simply to allow his contract to end. If he’s even receptive to considering the idea of staying, however, then there’s something to work from. Even while his reps meet with general manager Neil Olshey to discuss prospective trades, Aldridge reportedly “has no issue with returning” if a trade wasn’t possible.
And for the Blazers, that’s when the decision ultimately falls on them. Do they choose to trade him regardless, or do they keep him?
Retaining Aldridge has plenty of allure for a variety of reasons. Obviously, there’s the off-court, emotional aspect of it. Aldridge is the face of this Blazers team even with Damian Lillard on board, and Blazers fans have grown to support him as their star player over the past few years. This is the fanbase that tried so hard to “send LA to LA” in 2011 when the All-Star Game was in Los Angeles.
Then, there’s the part where Aldridge is the unquestioned veteran leader of this team, on the floor and in the locker room. He turned 28 on Friday, while most of the rest of the team’s core is 25 or younger (Wes Matthews is 26). When the rest of this team hits their prime, Aldridge can be the veteran leader to guide them deep into the playoffs.
Not only that, but Aldridge’s playstyle strikes as one that will age well. Finesse seems to have negative connotations when used to describe big men (which I don’t necessarily agree with), but the finesse aspects of Aldridge’s game make him well-suited to produce well even in the late stages of his career. Relying on a strong mid-range game is much easier to do than relying on overwhelming athleticism for a 30-year old big man in the NBA.
However, the most important argument towards retaining Aldridge might be to simply allow the talent on this team to develop. The Blazers have seen a lot of overturn ever since the failed Brandon Roy/Greg Oden era, and it might be a good idea to allow for some stability for a change. For the first time in a while, this team is stable and secure. They have a good shot at a few years of the playoffs, which is something the fanbase deserves.
Keeping Aldridge, provided he’s willing to stay, and allowing the young guns on this team to develop can take us somewhere. I’m not inclined to believe that the current core can be a contender, but they have a strong group of prospects (Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, C.J. McCollum) led by a great leadership presence in Aldridge. Sometimes, it takes just one prospect turning out exceptionally well to turn a playoff team into a contender.
And, if the Blazers can get some sustained success going on, maybe they can attract some free agents for a change. Portland is not an ideal destination for most NBA free agents when cities like Los Angeles and Dallas are on the table, but success can lure free agents just as well as bright city lights can. From there, who knows what can happen? Certainly, the best case scenario, whatever you imagine it to be, sounds pretty nice.
Of course, that might just be wishful thinking. We could just be settling for a few years of a bottom-4 seed in the playoffs. But, would that be a bad thing?
I liken it to an ideal NBA offense, where most of your shots are at the rim or from three. If you’re at the rim, you’re a contending team getting what you want. If you’re shooting from three, you’re a bottom-feeder team going all in and banking on the odds of the lottery turning your team around. Settling for mid-range jumpers, or mediocrity, would be your least likely chance of actual success.
But, sometimes, you want to take the mid-range jumper. If your offense is struggling in getting shots at the rim and not knocking down the three ball, then maybe you should step inside and take the closest shot you can get. For the Blazers, who’ve struggled plenty with all the turnover in recent years, should settle and give their fans a few years of the playoffs. Even if it means a few years of first-round exits.
Finally, let’s look at the alternative, which would be trading Aldridge. Who would even be willing to give up a high draft pick for a borderline All-Star? We had the opportunity for Cleveland’s first overall pick in this year’s draft, but that’s passed and next year’s draft class is perceived as significantly better than this year’s. Not only that, but any team giving up their pick for Aldridge will only be improving on the court, meaning a lower chance of us actually winning the lottery with that pick.
So many teams are currently tanking in anticipation of next year’s draft. They’re hoarding prospects with very little interest in currently having quality players. Just what kind of package could the Blazers even hear as an offer for LaMarcus Aldridge? Maybe a low lottery pick and a decent prospect from a team on the bubble. That’s not ideal.
At the very least, we should hold on to Aldridge for one more year. His contract has two years left on it. Allow this draft to pass. As good as it is, we’d be extremely lucky to get anything significant from it.
Instead, reassess the situation a year from now. The 2015 draft is a bit murky right now, but it stands to reason that we can get a better deal with that draft on the horizon as opposed to the 2014 draft with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Marcus Smart, among others.
For what it’s worth, my personal preference is actually to trade Aldridge a year from now, and go all in for the championship a few years down the line. If we fail, at least we will be better poised for a strong lottery pick than with Aldridge. I’ve even written a piece on the topic already.
That said, however, the desire for some security in this team’s roster and direction will appeal to a large portion of this fanbase. They’ve struggled through a lot in recent years, and settling down for a while might not be a bad idea.
So, Blazers fans, what do you think? Do you want to put it all on the three ball and go all in with an Aldridge trade for prospects and picks, or allow the team to simply gain some much-needed momentum through the mid-range jumper?