The Portland Trail Blazers officially offered a maximum contract extension to franchise power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The 3-year, $55 million extension is dwarfed by the 5-year, $108 million extension the Blazers can offer next year, when Aldridge becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Both the Blazers and Aldridge have, by all accounts, been committed to one another publicly and privately after a fairy tale season that saw the team make a 21-game jump and make the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. After murmurs that he was unhappy following last year’s 33-49 showing that ended with a 13-game losing streak, Aldridge had a career year, making his third straight All-Star appearance, averaging career highs in rebounding and scoring, and garnering third-team All NBA honors.
While the prospect of Aldridge accepting a three year offer today when he could get a five year deal next year is romantic, it is not realistic. It doesn’t matter how much you love your team: it’s difficult to see a player entering the middle-to-late stages of his prime turning down financial security.
Accepting the 3-year deal now means his contract would end in 2017, when Aldridge would be 32. It would be possible to sign a longer deal then, but statistically speaking, Aldridge would be a greater risk of dropping off somewhat, forfeiting his chance at a maximum deal.
If he waits a year, Aldridge will be just 30, and will almost certainly get a maximum deal. Signing a 5-year contract at that point will take him though 2020, when he will be 35.
While the contract he could get at 32 would be better than he would at 35, the calculus gets somewhat convoluted when you consider injury risk. He could get hurt next year, sure, but nothing short of a catastrophic injury is likely to pull him out of maximum contract territory. Taking the 3-year deal now means there is and extra two years of risk before his next possible contract, when he’d be at an age when most GMs would be extremely hesitant to give him a 5-year deal, let alone a MAXIMUM 5-year deal, even if he’s healthy.
Aldridge will most likely decline the Blazers’ current offer, knowing that a maximum length, maximum money deal is just around the bend, and bet that the $108 million he would earn would be greater than the $55 million added to whatever deal he could get when he’s 32.
Does this mean he loves the Blazers any less. Absolutely not. Try to remember who got the rough side of the pineapple last time the Blazers had two talented players up for contract, and your knees start aching. While Brandon Roy got the maximum money, Aldridge has been the far, far better investment, and even if a fellow All-Star Damian Lillard is great in his own rig, there is no doubt that Aldridge’s contract will be negotiated first.
Expect to hear a whole lot of nothing about Adridge’s contract until the end of next seasons when, we all hope, the Blazers will be flush from a title run.