Neil Olshey has made it very clear in his comments to the media in the past few weeks that he and Paul Allen (and I suppose Terry Stotts as well, though he is probably more concerned with developing the players already on the roster) want to move forward with a core of Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, Aldridge is a two time All-Star in his prime, an above average two-way player on a great contract (he's not overpaid for All-Star caliber production, the team has control of him for a significant period of time but it's not so long as to make the contract an albatross). He's also Portland's biggest trade chip in the event Olshey decided to make him available.
What possible offers could Portland reasonably expect to field for the "L-Train"? Portland would require two things in any Aldridge trade: 1) young blue-chippers; and, 2) draft picks (preferably high lottery picks, but any first rounders would do). So I went and got drunk on ESPN.com's Trade Machine to see what a potential Aldridge trade would look like and found a few trades that work under the salary cap and have merit from a basketball standpoint. We know Aldridge isn't going anywhere, so this is just a big game of "what if" to have some fun with.
The Combo Plate. In a trade with Oklahoma City and Milwaukee, the Blazers pick up Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb, John Henson, Luke Richard Mbah a Moute, and two first round draft picks (Toronto's via Houston and OKC, and OKC's own pick this year). (I call it the combo plate because it nets the Blazers both young players and draft picks.)
Why the Blazers do it: the Blazers pick up at least two blue-chippers in John Henson and Jeremy Lamb (both stellar defensively who need to add more strength and figure out how to play offense in the NBA, especially Henson), and have a chance to get a very high draft pick out of the Toronto pick (someone like Ben McLemore, Alex Len, Cody Zeller, Marcus Smart or Michael Carter-Williams). Kendrick Perkins would at least give the Blazers a presence in the middle for a few years on a not horrible contract, and Mbah a Moute would give the Blazers a very good defensive player capable of guarding four positions who is underrated offensively (he's not a great shooter and would create some spacing issues, but he can score).
Big picture the trade would set the Blazers' championship window back a few years, but would allow Lillard, Lamb, Batum and Henson (and two probable lottery picks; Toronto's and the Blazers' own) to grow together with a veteran presence of Matthews and Perkins. That team could contend for a championship in four to five years.
Why the Thunder do it: they get Aldridge. Plain and simple. Their big man rotation would be Ibaka, Aldridge and Collison. Aldridge solves every spacing issue they have on offense, and as an added bonus they also get to shed Perkins' contract. Yes, they take on a larger one in Aldridge, but getting Aldridge would essentially guarantee them a championship the next two-three seasons. His contract only runs for the next two seasons as opposed to Perkins' three, allowing them to avoid the ultra-harsh repeater penalties the new CBA imposes.
Why the Bucks do it: the Bucks PF rotation is an absolute mess right now, with four players splitting minutes at the spot and none of them averaging more than 8 PPG (Mbah a Moute). Hickson would probably approve a trade there, as he would immediately step in and take the majority of the PF minutes, allowing him to continue racking up double-doubles. The Bucks will also have a bunch of cap space this summer (assuming Monta Ellis opts out of the last year of his deal), allowing them to resign Brandon Jennings and Hickson to move forward with a core of Jennings, Ilysova, Hickson and Larry Sanders. The Bucks would probably need a sweetener in the deal, and the Blazers could easily send them a second round pick or the Thunder could send them the Dallas first rounder they own (via the Lakers and Rockets).
Why the Blazers do it: The added depth of the young players would be nice. Burks and Cunningham would be nice additions to the Blazer backcourt who could both develop into impact players, while Crowder is capable of playing both SF and PF. However, the real prize here is Favors. Favors has an insane amount of potential, and could develop into the next Dwight Howard with a better offensive game. In the crowded Utah front court he is only averaging 21 MPG this year. Given starter's minutes he should flourish into the NBA's next great big man. The bonus of this trade is the Blazers don't have to give up Hickson, allowing him to slide over to his natural PF position or retain the option of trading him separately.
Why Utah does it: their aforementioned front court is crowded. They get an All-Star to put alongside Enes Kanter and are able to resign Paul Millsap at the end of the year. Aldridge and Millsap give them the flexibility to play ultra big in a Millsap-Aldridge-Kanter front court, or play small with Aldridge at C and Millsap at PF. They also get Kris Kaman's $8 mil off the books at the end of the year.
Why Dallas does it: first the minor reasons: they get a promising young guard in Wil Barton (the presence of Cunningham and Burks make Barton expendable), and they get a low-post bruiser (Al Jefferson) to put next to Dirk Nowitzki. However, what they really get is continued cap flexibility. Dallas is in the same position New York and Miami were in a few years ago; they are trying to clear cap space to assemble a super team. This trade lops off about an additional $2-2.5 mil from their cap after this season allowing them to make a run at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. In the event they are unable to sign either player they can try to rebuild around Dirk, Jefferson, OJ Mayo and Darren Collison.
The Andre Drummond. Would the Pistons trade Drummond for Aldridge straight-up? That would be the basis of the trade, and just for good measure I threw in the Hickson for Henson/Mbah a Moute trade from earlier.
Why the Blazers do it: The Blazers turn Aldridge and Hickson into Drummond, Henson and Mbah a Moute, plus an extra $11-ish mil in cap space this summer. The Blazers get their starters at all five positions in Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Henson and Drummond. What's nice about this lineup is that Henson does not even have to develop into an offensive savant in order to provide value (something he may not be capable of). As long as he turns into a rebounder and rim protector with a decent midrange/slashing game he will be a very good role player. Big-picture this trade is all about the future. In four years it could be a terrifying team as long as Portland manages its cap and bench smartly mixing quality veterans in with the young players.
Why Detroit does it: Disclaimer: Detroit probably says "no" to this trade. In the limited minutes he has played this year Drummond has looked every bit like the top talent people saw in him coming out of college. All the questions about his motor, skill set and consistency have been answered. Greg Monroe isn't a great shot blocker and is somewhat of a tweener defensively. They would be giving up a potential 12 year All-Star for a PF already in his prime on a much more expensive contract with no guarantees of resigning him in two years. While Aldridge would compliment Monroe's abilities more than Drummond does now, at just 23 Monroe could develop a good midrange game to help alleviate the spacing issues created with a Monroe-Drummond front court.
However, Drummond is only playing 20 minutes a night. Detroit would ultimately be taking a huge gamble that they can win in the next two-three years instead of the next three to four. If Drummond pans out a Monroe-Drummond front line would be insanely dominate over the next 10 years. Monroe-Aldridge doesn't have the same ceiling, and would last for only about 5 years if they can resign Aldridge. Like I said, Detroit probably says no. But they at least have a three hour meeting about it if Olshey called and offered it to them.
Why Milwaukee does it: See above. Again, they may need a sweetener or two (a couple second round picks, maybe a lottery protected first) to give up a blue chipper for an UFA who they may not be able to resign. But they are making a playoff push and Hickson would unquestionably help them towards that end.
The "Poison Pill" Deal. Disclaimer: I am only including this trade in the post because I have seen the basic structure for it floated on this site several times before and know if I don't include it someone will post it in the comments. I have a TON of caveats in regards to this trade, so please hear me out before you go comment "I couldn't take this article seriously after he posted a DeMarcus Cousins trade" and call me an idiot. I think it is an interesting trade idea that does warrant consideration, but must be looked at in a rational manner rather than argued via gut-check reactions.
Let's start with the basics: the deal would be Aldridge for DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson. But this deal comes together in the context.
Why Sacramento does it: Let's start with the Kings this time, because while both players are supposedly unavailable (we know for a fact Aldridge is), we're already pretending Aldridge is on the block. So we need real-life reasons for Sacramento/Seattle to do this deal (the Seattle part is crucial in this whole thing). DeMarcus Cousins is a headache, both on and off the court. He could be the best center in the league if he put everything together but he is consistently his own worst enemy (that is the exact reason, by the way, I called this one the "poison pill" deal). When you look at Boogie Cousins you shouldn't be writing him off as immature and a punk who is a cancer to his team. The valid question to examine is why is Boogie Cousins an immature punk?
He spent one year in college before getting selected with the 5th pick in the draft as a 19-year-old and being handed millions of dollars by the most dysfunctional franchise in all of professional sports. He had huge expectations heaped on him from day 1 without ever having a stable coaching staff/front office or even one quality veteran to teach him an NBA level work ethic and how to act and deal with the pressures of being an NBA player. Yet despite all his immaturity, he is still a game-changer on both ends of the floor (which is why the Kings are calling him untouchable).
But say you're the Kings/Sonics new ownership group. The team Seattle lost three years ago is (probably) going to win the NBA championship this season. You have to market the new team to Seattle to draw fans. Who on this team do you market? Tyreke Evans (who may not even be on the team when they move to Seattle)? Cousins the head case? Isaiah Thomas (no no, not that one, the one from U-Dub)? Jimmer Time? There are literally zero marketable stars on this team: no All-Stars, no playoff appearances, no veterans searching for another championship, nothing. This team has not been relevant since the screw-job of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Trading for Aldridge would not only give this team someone to build around, but it would be someone the new ownership could market to fans; a two-time All-Star who can be the number one option on a decent team. Plus having Aldridge and Isaiah Thomas to build around would not be a bad start to the new franchise in Seattle (assuming Keith Smart gives Thomas enough playing time to develop). There's no guarantee Aldridge resigns in two years, but if the new ownership doesn't want to deal with the Cousins headache (or he goes any further off the rails) they could pull the trigger. Besides, it would probably take a player of Aldridge's caliber to make them seriously consider the offer.
Why the Blazers do it: This would understandably be a very tough sell to the fans and would be a huge risk from a basketball standpoint. Aldridge is the face of the franchise, a model citizen, an All-Star who works his tail off and is the third best PF in the Western Conference (after Kevin Love and Blake Griffin). Cousins may be just be a bust, someone who can never put it all together because he didn't figure it out in time. He's a poor passer, takes bad shots, settles for jumpers he can't hit and, of course, does things like this. The good news is the Blazers would have a year and a half to try to straighten him out, and if he just doesn't get it together they can dump him.
The downside to that would be the Blazers would have traded an All-Star caliber PF in his prime for a year and a half of a headache and have nothing to show for it. I love Thomas Robinson, he's an athletic freak and could average 15 and 10, but he isn't a rim protector and isn't polished offensively yet. This trade is a massive risk, and could leave the Blazers with nothing in the end. It could also leave them with the best center in the league and a double-double machine at PF. Safe money says it would end up being the former, and ultimately I don't think the Blazers would take the gamble, or even ever seriously consider the trade.
Really this is all just for fun and games. Aldridge isn't going anywhere, but I did wanted to have some fun and see what kind of return the Blazers could get for Aldridge if Olshey and Paul Allen decided to take the franchise in a new direction. Throw out your own Aldridge trades if you want, it's all just fun and games until someone tears his plantar fascia.