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Breaking Down LaMarcus Aldridge's Contract Options

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Before July 1st, Neil Olshey will attempt to negotiate a contract with Aldridge and his representatives. When they finally sit down, what options will be on the table?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With all the questions swirling around LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, the first question of his recent exit interview cut right to the chase:

Q: LaMarcus, what's going to be important for you when you decide where you play next year?

Aldridge: ... I'm not gonna get into the details of it, but I think I'm gonna go home and just relax and talk to my family and my agent and just go from there. Of course I love being here, I'm thankful for everything this city has given me and for my time here. It's been an amazing nine years; of course I'm not trying to have that end. When the time comes we'll sit down, my agent and Neil (Olshey) and Paul (Allen), we'll just figure it out."

It's encouraging that Aldridge said he'd sit down with Olshey and figure it out. He could have said he would "explore all my options" or "do my due diligence" which implies speaking with other teams. It's always dangerous to read too much into single, veiled quote but it appears the Blazers will at least get the first meeting.

What contract options will be on the table when they all finally get down to brass tax?

The Long-Term Option


Long-Term Contract Terms



2015-2016

2016-2017

2017-2018

2018-2019

2019-2020



Age 30

Age 31

Age 32

Age 33

Age 34


With Blazers

$18,989,300

$20,413,498

$21,837,695

$23,261,893

$24,686,090

$109,188,475

With Another Team

$18,989,300

$19,843,819

$20,698,337

$21,552,856


$81,084,311

Aldridge will be a nine-year veteran this offseason, making him eligible for a first year's salary equal to 30% of the cap. However, the cap for max salary purposes is slightly lower than the cap used for everything else. With a projected cap of $67.1 million, that works out to about $19 million next year.

Any team can offer him that amount next year. The difference is the Trail Blazers can offer higher raises throughout the contract and an extra year at the end. Assuming Aldridge won't be able to sign a $25 million per year contract at age 34, this could be a sizable difference.

If Aldridge wants security, he'll have to give up a significant amount of money to leave.

The Opt-Out Option


Opt-Out Contract Terms



2015-2016

2016-2017

2017-2018

2018-2019

2019-2020

2021-2022



Age 30

Age 31

Age 32

Age 33

Age 34

Age 35


With Blazers

$18,989,300

$29,370,000

$31,572,750

$33,775,500

$35,978,250

$38,181,000

$187,866,800

Diff Team W/ Cap Space

$18,989,300

$29,370,000

$30,691,650

$32,013,300

$33,334,950


$144,399,200

Diff Team W/out Cap Space

$18,989,300

$22,787,160

$23,812,582

$24,838,004

$25,863,427


$116,290,473

Aldridge could sign a one-year deal and then hope to sign a long term contract after the new TV revenue hits. LaMarcus would also be a 10-year veteran making him eligible for 35% of the cap. By waiting a year, Aldridge takes advantage of a double whammy. He would get a higher percentage of a drastically larger number.

Another team could offer Aldridge the same one-year deal but wouldn't get Bird Rights after a single year. As a result, they still couldn't match the Blazers' follow up offer and would need cap space to keep Aldridge long term. If they didn't have enough cap space in 2016-2017 (unlikely given the projected cap increase), then they could only offer 120% of his previous salary.

This presents an interesting option for LaMarcus. He could sign a one year deal with the Blazers, see how Wesley comes back, and then make his long term decision next year when almost every team would be able to throw him the max. Going that route would not only maximize his salary but also his ability to choose his own team.

Opting Out Twice


Opt-Out Twice Contract Terms



2015-2016

2016-2017

2017-2018

2018-2019

2019-2020

2021-2022

2022-2023



Age 30

Age 31

Age 32

Age 33

Age 34

Age 35

Age 36


With Blazers

$18,989,300

$29,370,000

$35,640,000

$38,313,000

$40,986,000

$43,659,000

$46,332,000

$253,289,300

Diff Team W/ Cap Space

$18,989,300

$29,370,000

$35,640,000

$38,313,000

$40,986,000

$43,659,000


$206,957,300

Diff Team W/out Cap Space

$18,989,300

$22,787,160

$35,640,000

$38,313,000

$40,986,000

$43,659,000


$200,374,460

Aldridge could also sign two one-year contracts to take advantage of the second anticipated cap spike. However, all signs point to the players opting out of the CBA in the summer of 2017. By having two one-year deals, Aldridge would be a free agent during the lockout. He'd have no idea what the rules would be and would probably have to sign in a rushed free agency period after the negotiations ended. I can't imagine Aldridge taking those kind of risks so this is probably the least likely option.

Conclusion

Wesley Matthews' injury really couldn't have happened at a worse time. It's obvious how important he is to the team and, regardless of Wesley's demeanor and work ethic, no one knows how good he'll be when he comes back. This team is right on the edge of contention as it is, so absorbing even a 20% drop in Matthews' play would be really difficult. Aldridge has to know this. Signing long term is making a bet not only on the front office and the organization but also on Wesley's health -- something outside of everyone's control.

The financial reasons against a long term deal are also stark. Aldridge could sign a five-year, $110 million contract this summer. Let's be generous and assume he can get $20 million per year at age 35. That's $130 million over the next six years if he signs a long term contract this summer. If he signs a one-year deal and then a long term deal, LaMarcus would make $190 million over that same period. It's one thing to ask Aldridge to bet on the Blazers with an uncertain future. It's another thing to ask him to give up $60 million on that same gamble.

Of course, Wesley's injury also shows a single game can drastically change a player's financial future. Perhaps that experience will encourage Aldridge to get as much money guaranteed as possible, but I doubt it. The two biggest factors in almost any negotiation are the basketball situation and money. There's just too much at stake in both categories to expect Aldridge to sign long term.

However, I also don't see him leaving. If he signs long term elsewhere all those same concerns apply. He'll make less money and no one with cap space can offer a significantly more certain future than the Blazers. Dallas is kind of a blank slate long term. San Antonio would essentially have to gut their depth to make the finances work. New York and Boston are rebuilding projects. Why bet on any team's uncertain future when you can wait a year and have your pick of the litter?

He could consider signing a one year deal somewhere else but that would mean giving up his Bird Rights. His new team would have to use cap room to sign him long term. It's not like they could add him one year and then use the cap spike to add someone else the next year. That someone else would be him.

As a result, if Aldridge is interested in another team he can join them next summer and end up with pretty much the same roster. Plus, he would would have a much better sense of what that team would actually look like because he would be the final move rather than the first or second. It's rare that a max player can ask himself "what would [insert team name]'s final roster be if I joined it?" but Aldridge will have that opportunity next summer. The only reason to leave now is if he's really done with the Blazers and wants a one-year test run with someone else. I'm just not convinced he's that down on this team's future.

All of that is speculation but it means the Blazers should be prepared for a season like Oklahoma City's. They could have one year to make a playoff run and prove to their star that this is the place to be before a summer where almost everyone could add Aldridge outright. We'll know a lot come July 1st, but the waiting and uncertainty might be just getting started.

Buckle up and get comfortable.