Longtime Portland Trail Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge is a free agent and appears likely to leave the team. How can the Trail Blazers replace him and stay competitive in the Western Conference?
According to a report from Eric Gunderson of the Columbian, LaMarcus Aldridge told the Trail Blazers that he was moving on. Aldridge is one of several big-name free agents this summer. Portland finished the regular season 51-31 to lead the Northwest Division and they seemed like a dangerous playoff team until Wesley Matthews went down with an Achilles injury. The Blazers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Grizzlies in what could have been Aldridge's last games with the team.
Where Would Aldridge Go?
LaMarcus Aldridge has spent his entire nine-year career with the Trail Blazers but he has made it past the first round of the playoffs just once, so he might feel that it's time to move on. The San Antonio Spurs are among the frontrunners to sign Aldridge, but it remains to be seen if they can clear enough cap room but it would be fun to watch him team up with Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan. Aldridge’s hometown is Dallas and the Mavericks need an impact player like him to revitalize their offense, so we can expect them to pursue him.
The Lakers are trying to make the right moves to turn their franchise around and they have cash to spend but Aldridge wouldn't be closer to an NBA title if he chooses them over the Spurs or Mavericks. Other teams who could be in play for the four-time NBA-All Star are the Rockets, Knicks, Celtics, Hawks and Cavaliers.
How Can Portland Rebuild?
The Trail Blazers have to look ahead. First they should call Damian Lillard at midnight July 1 to sign him to a max extension off his rookie deal. Then they have to reach out to Kevin Love, someone who can come in and replace Aldridge's production. But that might be a longshot since he has said that he wants to stay in Cleveland, and even if he leaves the Cavs, the Lakers are expected to make a move for him, especially if Aldridge goes to San Antonio or Dallas.
Portland's rebuild has already started, as they stocked their roster with young players, picks and assets by trading Nicolas Batum to the Hornets for Gerald Henderson and 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh last Wednesday. Then they drafted Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the 23rd overall pick and dealt him and veteran point guard Steve Blake to the Nets for Mason Plumlee and the rights to Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton, whom the Nets took with the No. 41 pick. Portland also acquired the rights to 22-year-old Spanish forward Dani Díez (who the Jazz selected with the 54th overall pick) for cash considerations.
It seems that all these moves have been done to prepare the team for a future without Aldridge. How much more will Portland's roster change ahead of the 2015-16 season. Aldridge hasn't left yet and NBA odds makers have the Trail Blazers at +5000 to win the NBA Championship at bet365.