The Portland Trailblazers are on the verge of beginning their summer vacation earlier than they had planned, and LaMarcus Aldridge has already begun backtracking on his lifetime commitment to the team as he approaches free agency.
"I talked to him before the game," ESPN's Chris Broussard said. "I asked him, 'Look, is Portland going to be your first choice?' And he just smiled and said, 'We'll see.' It's not a ringing endorsement for the Blazers."
Just as with any player about to become a free agent, Aldridge is leaving his options open. The Blazers are potentially going to be swept out of the first round and have not gone as far in the postseason as many might have thought these past two years.
Aldridge felt this season was his best shot at a deep run and even played through a major hand injury to post one his best ever seasons, but now with the Blazers sucking on fumes.
Unless the Blazers mount an incredible comeback from a 3-0 deficit, he will have tasted the second round only once despite having a .500+ record in 6 of the 8 years. So don't be surprised if he checks out the free agent market this summer he cash on his last big contract.
Of course, the usual suitors exist - all the Texas teams - as well as the Los Angeles Lakers. There are no-brainer suitors that don't require any "sources" to name, but someone did anyway.
Broussard didn't stop there. He even threw out the old wanting-to-win mantra, ignoring the obvious financial advantages in each and every one of those markets. In Texas, there's no income tax. In LA and NY, there's all the local endorsement opportunities. Aldridge is not a major TV star, but he could become one in a bigger market than Portland.
"He said this series really wouldn't have a big impact on what he does this summer," Broussard continued. "His main factor, he said, is going to be going someplace where he has the best chance to win. Now, there's significant speculation around the league that he is going to be Portland. A lot of people think the Spurs could be his landing spot. Or, if he just wants glamour and to have his own team, it could be the Lakers."
All the major free agents will test the waters and visit teams. Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Aldridge and recently-injured Kevin Love all have the ability to hit the market.
As I explained the other day, some of the mid-career guys might go for one or two year deals this offseason in order to go back on the market to increase their annual income by 30+% in the summer of 2016 or 2017 when the salary cap skyrockets.
However, when factoring in Bird Rights (that only vest after 2 years with a team), we won't see many true-max players jumping ship for a one-year deal that "only" allows a 20% raise the next summer, versus the projected 32% cap increase.
The maximum Aldridge could make from another team this summer, on a 4-year contract given the projected salary cap for this summer, would be a paltry $81.1 million. This is paltry because of all the other options he's got.
From the Blazers, who can offer 7.5% raises and a 5th year, Aldridge (or any 7-9 year free agent) could make as much as $109 million in a contract signed this summer alone. But even THAT is still chump change.
If he decides to max his income and bets on himself to stay healthy, he could conceivably make more than $168 million by opting out NEXT summer (2016) for a new max contract, or by opting out in 2017 because a 5-year max contract could net $200+ million in total contracts over 7 years. All of this assumes the full 7.5% raises and staying with the Blazers.
That's all speculation based on the expected jumps in the cap, and that Aldridge is still a max player at that time, but it illustrates that Aldridge (or any big name 7-9 year free agent) would be silly to accept a measly 4-year, $81 million max offer from any new team this summer.
Aldridge could conceivably sign with a new team this summer for one year, but then he won't have Bird Rights next summer and can "only" get a 20% raise (while the cap rises 32%), and could re-up next summer for a 5-year grand total of just over $116 million.
Or, Aldridge could sign with a new team for TWO years, get his Early Bird Rights, then re-up with them (who then own his Bird Rights) for the max and tally just under $200 million over a 7-year span.
Dolla dolla bills yo.
Suns the Suns jump in?
The Suns need a star. We all know this. The only way for the Suns to get one, potentially, is to offer a maximum salary 2-year deal to let the player hit the market again and get huge salary increases. The danger here is that the player can leave quickly, whereas in prior off seasons you had a three+-year commitment from them.
Should the Suns do that with Aldridge?
As perfect as Aldridge would fit in Phoenix, and as much as he would justify the salary he'd command this summer because of the rising cap, the Suns should NOT even try to sign him.
For one thing, the Suns would start out no higher than 5th or 6th on his potential destination list, possibly much lower. Why pass up a Texas team, LA, NY or Portland for the Phoenix Suns, who are not guaranteed to go any further in the playoffs with him than he's done in Rip City?
And why risk alienating your own free agents while courting Aldridge? We saw how that worked out last summer.
It's not like the Suns have the waiting cap room. They would have to renounce all of their free agents, including Brandon Knight and Brandan Wright as well as Gerald Green and Marcus Thornton, just to make room for his contract. To do so would make the Suns a "below the cap" team that would spend nearly all their space on one player to replace to four.
It's conceivable the Suns could then use their remaining cap space, about $4 million, to sign a veteran shooter to round out the lineup. Plus they can always make trades - McD made FIVE of them during the season - to shape the rest of the roster around Aldridge.
But is it worth it?
I say no.
What say you, Suns fans?