Is LaMarcus Aldridge Worth $65 Million?

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Aldridge Extension: Putting The Focus On Basketball

SBN’s Portland Trail Blazers blog Blazersedge is back with a final retrospective on the Aldridge extension, and what it means for the direction of the Blazers:

With extension signed and press conference completed, Aldridge can retreat to his comfort zone: playing second fiddle. Indeed, Aldridge will earn nearly max compensation without needing to deal with the single-minded scrutiny that usually accompanies that kind of paycheck. Sure, detractors will continue to get on him for his “softness” and modest rebounding numbers, but as long as Brandon Roy is around and healthy, Roy will garner more accolades and bear the bulk of the responsibility when things don’t go as planned. It seems like a trade-off — less fame but less criticism — that Aldridge is happy to make.

How much was Scottie Pippen worth? While Aldridge is certainly light years away from belonging in the same conversation as Pippen, Aldridge shows the same willingness to sublimate his game for the good of the team and play the sidekick role (yes, Brandon Roy is Michael Jordan in this analogy, and, no, Ron Artest did not contribute to this post). This is uncommon in the NBA. Just in the last decade or so, both the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and the SSOL-era Suns have fallen victim to clashing egos, as stars fought over accolades and crunchtime shots. While the Blazers almost certainly overpaid to extend Aldridge, locking in a young player whose personality fits into their overall team concept, and who still has a rather high ceiling make this deal more than defensible for Portland.

The other key consideration is that the Aldridge extension removes any distraction/uncertainty for Aldridge. As Blazersedge points out:

Star or not, LaMarcus Aldridge is now able to do what he hasn’t yet done as a Blazer: get fully comfortable. His path is set, his role is clear, his immediate future is all laid out, his every financial need taken care of.

All that’s left now is the basketball.

As the Baby Bulls or Clippers of the early 2000s could tell you, nothing can rip apart a team of promising youngsters faster than everyone playing for himself, trying to secure a big second contract. By removing this distraction, the Blazers have put the focus back on the court. Which is good news for Blazers fans.

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Reacting to the Aldridge Extension

SBN’s excellent Portland Trail Blazers blog, Blazersedge, weighs in on the news of Aldridge’s new contract:

This is a solid move for the franchise, though not without its risks. There’s no doubt Aldridge deserved a ton of money. His offensive and physical development have already established him as a solid player and a good bet for the future. He’s lingering in the space between a good and very good new-age power forward with definite potential to become great. He’s a good fit with Greg Oden as well. For all of these reasons and more the Blazers had to retain him. Both LaMarcus and his agent knew this and knew what he was worth and they got it, with perhaps a little frosting thrown in. He’s as close to a max contract as you can get without actually being maxed…just below the expectations of a superstar, almost all the pay.

The risk here is twofold. First, the Blazers are definitely paying Aldridge based on future expectations. That always carried uncertainty with it. The new salary puts LaMarcus into the top 5% of league earners. It’s a potential ramp-up for Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett level compensation in his next contract. He’s not that player yet nor, truth be told, even that kind of prospect yet. He’s very good at the things he does well but if the Blazers need rebounding, passing, or more straight-up defense he’s not going to be the guy to provide it. This brings up the second risk. If anything happens to Greg Oden then LaMarcus loses his counter-balance and suddenly looks overpaid as the not-quite-superstar trying to carry the frontcourt load himself. That contract is going to be hard to move even when it comes close to expiration, as LaMarcus will be looking for at least a continuation, if not the ramped-up raise we just mentioned. He is almost certainly going to be a Blazer for five full years now, for better or worse. The only exception would be if there were already a superstar deal in the works for which LaMarcus’ salary and potential were the ballast. But that seems unlikely.

Whether this was a good, let alone an ideal, move for the Blazers is a moot point. It was necessary and that’s the end of the story. As long as the team stays healthy around him and we can let LaMarcus do the things he does best it should turn out great for all involved.

A lot of good stuff there, and for my money, it’s tough to say whether this deal will be judged a success, and ultimately, it’s out of Lamarcus Aldridge’s hands. Because yes, he did get overpaid—but if the Blazers win 55 games this year and continue their progression from “up-and-coming” to realistic contenders, the deal makes sense.

Does that make sense?

I’m thinking of the Rashard Lewis deal, here—really the gold standard in bloated contracts. At the time, that deal did not make sense. But when you looked up last year and saw Lewis as a key contributor for the Magic in the finals, suddenly, it wasn’t quite as bad. Still overpaid the guy, but hey, can you argue with the results?

On the other end of the spectrum you have the Chicago Bulls, a team that steadfastly refused to overpay for Ben Gordon. He’s an undersized shooting guard that dominates the ball, takes shots in high volume, and doesn’t score very efficiently. In other words, not worth 55 million dollars. And yet, he was the soul of their team, and a linchpin for any success that they’re going to have in the next few years.

Solely as a player, Gordon was not worth what Detroit paid him, but as a piece of the Chicago franchise, he was worth every penny. Without Gordon, the Bulls basically forfeited the 2009-10 season, sitting content with John Salmons and Luol Deng as their primary scorers on offense. Losing him forced Chicago to, at least for a moment, take a step back.

And that’s sort of what we’re talking about with Aldridge. If the Blazers are able to take the next step as a franchise, then Aldridge getting overpaid by about $10-15 million won’t seem nearly as bad. And had they not extended him, they would have risked a Ben Gordon-type situation, whereby they jerk around a player that, for all his shortcomings relative to league superstars, is still a critical building block for their franchise.

It seems odd to applaud any team that gives a player too much money, but it’s true: by extending Aldridge and meeting his demands, Portland took a crucial step toward protecting the foundation they’ve worked so hard to build. Will that foundation lead to championships? Hard to say, and that’s a much bigger question. But by extending Aldridge, Portland ensured that it’s question we’ll be asking for at least the next few years.

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Aldridge Extension Too Much?

As is his wont, Bill Simmons is already on the record with his displeasure with the Aldridge deal:

Fyi: I wouldn’t give any NBA megaextension except for a Durant type. Market swung too drastically. Aldridge worth 65m 3 yrs ago but not now.

It is a lot of money, especially for a team with such a deep talent pool and with — theoretically, hinging on his health — a potentially game-changing replacement for Aldridge in Greg Oden. Do you really need one when you have the other? But Aldridge has also been productive in his first few years, and his budding ball skills could mean he has major growth ahead of him in the next few years.

Or, with millions in tow, he could spend the next five years playing at 60 percent. Such is the risk of giving young professionals so very much money; some get a taste and want more, and some are happy as soon as they hammer the check.

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Portland's Talent Pool Continues To Run Deep

Aldridge’s extension corresponds nicely with this column from earlier this month at CBS Sports, where contributor Dwight Jaynes detailed just how much talent the Blazers have. Hint: a lot of it:

The Portland Trail Blazers won 54 games last season and tied for first place in the Northwest Division. By just about any measure, they’re a team on the rise, not only because they have a solid nucleus of three players — Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden — who may someday play together in an All-Star Game. No, it’s not just that.

[…] But aside from them, Portland has Nicolas Batum, a budding star who was a solid contributor for France’s national team last summer in the European championships. He’s a player the Blazers believe has potential to be a dependable scorer and lockdown defender who came out of nowhere at the age of 19 to claim a starting spot last season after an injury to Martell Webster. […] .

And don’t forget Rudy Fernandez, the charismatic Spaniard who averaged 10.4 points per game and set a rookie record for 3-point field goals last season. […]
Oh, and shot-blocking and rebounding specialist Joel Przybilla, free-agent power forward Juwan Howard, point guards Steve Blake, Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless and sixth man Travis Outlaw. These are players who would be in just about any team’s rotation.

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Aldridge Only Third Player In Draft Class To Sign Extension

It’s getting to that point in the life of the 2006 draft class where players will begin to think about signing extensions with their teams, but as Chicago Now’s Bulls Condfidential points out, few players have made leap thus far:

Of the entire 2006 draft, only three players have signed extensions. First overall pick Andrea Bargnani got a 5 year, $50 million extension, and now Aldridge (second overall pick, tecnically) has signed for $70 million. The other to sign is another Blazer, Brandon Roy, who signed a maximum deal through 2015 last month. No one else has signed an extension, and few like they’re going to.

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Lamarcus Aldridge Signs $65 Million Extension With Trail Blazers

Lamarcus Aldridge has been a quietly productive frontcourt player for the Trail Blazers since his entry to the league in 2006, and a developing one at that, and it's obvious the Blazers value him highly. And now he has the paper to prove it. From Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Lamarcus Aldridge has agreed to a five year extension worth approximately $70 million with Portland, a league source tells Y! Sports.

The deal isn't quite worth $70 million; Woj's latest tweet claims the deal is roughly $65-68 million, and might approach $70 with incentives. But the main point still stands: Barring a trade, Lamarcus Aldridge will be with the Blazers for a long time, and he will be paid handsomely as a result.

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