I have seen questions lately from fans asking if the Portland Trail Blazers should trade all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Well, I’m here to tell you that they shouldn’t.
Aldridge is a current all-star that has spent his whole career here. This is a guy who wants to be here. He has built a name for himself … here!
The Blazers have also found him a perfect sidekick. Not one that hinders his game, but one that boosts his game. Damian Lillard and LA complement each other’s game so well. With pick-and-rolls and working an inside-outside game, these two make for a great combination. Why throw that away? If anything, you trade the pieces around them and build around these two guys.
Without Aldridge on the court, Lillard’s game slipped a little bit. He wasn’t able to score more with more opportunities; he actually scored less in the eight games without Aldridge (17.6 without compared to his 19.0 season PPG average). Defenses were able to apply more pressure on Lillard and not have to worry too much about an offensive low post presence. And yes, even with J.J. Hickson still on the court. Hickson’s game is far below Aldridge’s.
Lillard’s turnovers also jumped from a season average of 3.0 to 3.8 in games without Aldridge. I don’t think Lillard gets his unanimous Rookie of the Year award without the big man, who takes so much pressure away from him. He was forced to do too much offensively instead of letting the game come to him.
When Lillard has everything going, he’s as unstoppable as any other great player in this league, but having the tools around him make him that much more effective. Having Lillard makes Aldridge that much more effective as well.
Trading LA honestly makes no sense to me. Some may say trade him now while you can still get value … I don’t think you do get more value by trading him. The value that he brings alongside Lillard and the team they have now – I don’t think you get that back in a trade. They have a combination that is deadly and will only become more deadly as Lillard develops and the team adds a few extra pieces around them.
I look at it like this - the team has the building blocks in place with these two guys. I can’t imagine players not wanting to come here to play alongside them. Maybe I’m a little overzealous here, being a fan myself. Looking at recent moves, Portland isn’t too far-fetched as a possible destination for quality players.
Here’s a few:
Aldridge took to Twitter to help recruit Jamal Crawford two years ago. It turned out to be an awful season for the Blazers as a whole, and it just didn’t work out for either party. But LA did get him in a Blazers uniform. Crawford is still a sixth-man type of player and he showed that this season with the Clippers.
If it wasn’t for a phone call that Roy Hibbert received while in Portland to sign his offer sheet, telling him that the Pacers were going to match the contract and for him to head back to Indiana, he could have been in a Blazers uniform this season. And boy do I wish that phone call never happened. That is the prototypical guy that this team needs at center.
Paul Millsap signed an offer sheet with Portland in 2009, but it was soon matched by the Utah Jazz. A year later, Wesley Matthews’ contract offer was not matched by the Jazz. So what makes you fans think that the Blazers can’t find a few rotational players that can help lead this team to the next level?
Look at what Memphis and Indiana are doing right now. They didn’t have super-teams. They put together players that play well with each other. They built a team with strong chemistry. Now they are competing for an NBA championship. I think Portland can do the same.
Where are these super-teams that were being built like the Miami Heat? They’re either sent home or about to be sent home. The LA Clippers, LA Lakers, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets all stacked their teams in hopes to compete with the Heat, but only the Knicks made it out of the first round in this year’s playoffs.
It can be done. Portland just needs to put all their chips into getting a center that can rebound and be a defensive presence, and the other positions will fall into place. They should do so without breaking up their deadly offensive duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. If they can succeed in doing that, there are going to be a contender.
Portland’s best option, if they truly believe that Meyers Leonard can develop into a starting center, is to sign a veteran center like Samuel Dalembert or Jermaine O’Neal to help build Leonard into that type of player. He needs someone to mold himself off of and I think either of these guys can help. Plus, O’Neal has already gone on record to say that he is willing to do this. This route will also allow the Blazers to sign a few rotation players since the cost won’t be too high.
If Leonard doesn’t make any strides by next season, then they could try to clear cap space to go after either DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe next offseason. Both Cousins and Monroe are great talents set to become restricted free-agents in 2014. Detroit would likely match a contract for Monroe, but who knows what the Sacramento Kings will do with Cousins.
The Blazers struck gold in last year when they drafted Lillard with the sixth pick. Let’s not turn that gold into silver by trading away his best asset in Aldridge. Maybe the Blazers could strike again in this year’s draft. The NBA Draft Lottery will be held Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Jason Hartzog is on Twitter. Follow him at @JHartsLife