I've had a few discussion exchanges with our BE family this week about the likelihood of an Aldridge extension next summer. Some feel like with a solid Blazer season and playoff appearance it is likely that Aldridge would be willing to sign a max extension in 2014. I would be all for that and I'm pretty sure the Blazers will offer it, but everything points to that not being part of LaMarcus' plans at this point. The comments he has made don't mean he's leaving in my opinion, but seem to mean that he would invite viewing the NBA landscape as an UFA. Olshey's moves this summer seem to point to a desire for flexibility to move forward with or without LaMarcus, likely based on his doubts of a summer of '14 extension. I feel like we have to look at the situation as something where even if we get a low playoff seed this season, LaMarcus goes into the following season as an expiring contract and future free agent.
Others have pointed out how without trades this team is likely to look the same in the '14/15 season as it does this year. Most of the contracts are guaranteed for the next 2 years. The Blazers will be active looking for a trade that makes this team better, but there is little guarantee that players not named Lillard or Aldridge from last year's team plus the players picked up this summer can be turned into top level NBA talent in a trade. It makes it likely that if this team does not perform well on the court that the decision will be to rebuild and would likely include trading Aldridge. However, I think this team will perform well and be in playoff contention and probably get a #7 or #8 seed and a 1st round playoff exit.
If the above assumptions are true, this will create a tricky situation. We're playing good enough that Aldridge leaving as an UFA isn't a foregone conclusion, but to get him to sign a new deal we have to wait for him to consider his options as an UFA and risk losing him without compensation. I think most people would agree that there is a heirarchy of desirable outcomes here with keeping Aldridge at the top, trading Aldridge (probably for young talent and draft picks) next, and losing him for nothing except cap space flexibility on the bottom. Do you take the risk of getting the worst possible outcome for the chance at getting your desired outcome? Or do you prefer to know what you're getting in a trade and not take the risk? It would be a pretty big gamble because if the perfect situation in a larger market came available we could easily see Aldridge moving on.
I think there will be two things that Olshey is keeping an eye on. First, is which teams will have cap space, established NBA stars and appear willing to give Aldridge the max free agent deal he would want if he were turning down the bigger deal offered by the Blazers. Second, is whether the pieces acquired in any Aldridge trade are of significantly more value than the cap space that we would be left with if Aldridge were to move on. If he feels like he can acquire young players with upside, like was done this summer or perhaps in an Aldridge S&T, with the cap space in the summer of '15 then losing LaMarcus for nothing is a inaccurate description of the risk Olshey is taking. If the trade offers aren't all that great it may be possible to end up with only a marginal difference in the outcome between risking losing Aldridge and accepting a trade.
If you're the GM and if keeping LaMarcus involves the risk of losing him for nothing except cap space are you choosing to take or avoid that risk? Do you think Olshey is a gambling man? I think Olshey thinks he can sell ice to eskimos. I think the moves he's made this summer are to create flexibility. That flexibility will mean that if the Blazers are in playoff contention this year that they'll take the risk that Aldridge will agree to take the extra guaranteed money (I think it's in the $30M neighborhood) and stay with the team. I think the team wants to add one more key piece, probably in a trade but possibly as a '15 FA, to make this team more attractive to LaMarcus. In the end, I'm a believer that Aldridge signs a new max deal to stay a Blazer...but it's a scary risk to take.