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LaMarcus Aldridge and the flip side of shorter contracts

Restricting the length of contracts further was a major win for the owners in the 2011 NBA lockout deal. But it does have a downside, too.


In the deal to end the 2011 NBA lockout, one of the owners' victories was in further shrinking the maximum length of players' contracts. Incumbents could only be under contract (via extension or new deal) for five years maximum, and teams can now only sign other teams' free agents for up to four years. It's an unmitigated win for the owners, because so often it's just as much the length of a bad contract -- not just the annual girth -- that causes problems for front offices. (Hence why no one has used the stretch provision, created in the 2011 lockout deal to allow teams to decrease the salary cap hit of waived players by stretching the hit over more years. No one really wants to keep dead salary on their books any longer than they have to.)

But there is a flip side to the regime of shorter contracts: that applies to stars, too. And while LaMarcus Aldridge signed his deal with the Blazers before 2011, Portland is feeling the pain on knowing he can flee in two years' time. Though under contract through 2014-15, Aldridge has requested that the Blazers trade him to a team playing for championships. (In the process of that, Portland has become a much better team over the summer, which makes one wonder at what point Aldridge will withdraw his request.)

The nexus between l'affair LMA and the shorter contracts is that when you sign your stars for 4-year chunks at a time, this is bound to happen more often. Aldridge is two years away from free agency and this is happening ... and even a year ago I wrote that this was a pretty obvious progression for the LMA era in Portland, given the team's rebuild plans. That said, the LaMarcalypse began a year early! If that becomes the new norm for disgruntled stars -- that they start plotting exits two years away from free agency -- then those shorter contracts are just going to renew these sagas with greater speed. Every free agent is 2-3 years away from being disenchanted, from looking for a potential new home!

Again, owners would never go back to the old way of 7-year deals and the like. But many of these owners want to preserve their contract control over their best, most cost-effective players. And because of shorter contracts, that control is eroding. It's just the way things are now.

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