LaMarcus Aldridge occupies an entirely unique place in the game of basketball, full of juxtapositions — if not contradictions. Everyone who follows basketball agrees that he is one of the very best power forwards in the NBA, but he has possibly the least mainstream fame of any player at his level.
He’s unquestionably the best all-around player on his team, but he isn’t the biggest star — that’s Damian Lillard, whose rapid rise to fame cemented him as the name above the title for Portland. Even though Aldridge had a pair of dominant performances that led the Blazers to two road wins in last year’s first round series against the Rockets, Lillard’s iconic buzzer-beater is the one thing everyone remembers about that series.
Aldridge is the longest-tenured Blazer, but when Wes Matthews went down with a torn Achilles’ tendon, LaMarcus himself called the shooting guard the “heart and soul of this team.”
He is a prototypical power forward in the classical mold, with possibly the best mid-range shot in the league and a good post-up game, but the NBA values his skill set less and less as the game speeds up and spreads out. He was drafted the same year as Brandon Roy, but while Roy’s star burned far more brightly before being extinguished too soon, Aldridge grew steadily and reliably and is comfortably at the peak of his career at age 29. (Brandon Roy is 30 now.)
He publicly stated his desire to remain in Portland and ambitions to be the best Trail Blazer ever. Despite those strong words, rumors have swirled all season about potential destinations for Aldridge when he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, and they’ve gotten louder recently.
After one story cited an anonymous teammate saying Aldridge was only 50-50 on coming back to Portland and CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reported that Aldridge is keeping his options open, it’s officially time to discuss Aldridge’s future.
Initially, Aldridge said that his reasons for not signing an extension before this season were purely financial – a completely legitimate statement considering he would have left two years of security and $50 million on the table had he extended his existing contract. But when he declined to sign the deal, he allowed the possibility for events of this season to change his mind.
Here’s what happened in 2014-2015: Lillard got even more famous though he only made small improvements to his game (and remained a liability on defense), Matthews tore his achilles and is also an unrestricted free agent (and as a result has the most unpredictable offseason of any player ahead of him), Nicolas Batum regressed horribly, and the Blazers are currently getting waxed by the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs (though the Blazers haven’t played any home games yet). All of those factors would force a reasonable person like Aldridge to wonder if Portland is the best place for him.