Four years ago, the Blazers won 54 games, had five players under the age of 25 average in double digits and were seemingly set for years to come with a nucleus of LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum and No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden.
Now—after declining win totals over the past five seasons, no playoff advancement beyond the first round and a complete bottoming out last year in which their coach, the excellent Nate McMillan, was tuned out and eventually fired—the Blazers are in full-on rebuilding mode.
Oden and Roy are gone thanks to career-threatening/ending injuries. Fernandez is in Europe. Outlaw never really panned out and is playing for his third team in two years.
That leaves Batum and Aldridge.
Aldridge will make $43.9 million guaranteed over the next three seasons. But he's also, at least for now, the focal point of this franchise—a role that does not suit him. He's an excellent offensive player, and he can be a forceful rebounder and post defender when he feels like it.
But he lacks the fire or temperament to be the man. That much was obvious last season as Portland spectacularly flamed out within the first month of the lockout-shortened year.
Now that the Blazers have electric rookie point guard Damien Lillard in the fold along with an older, more mature Batum (who is also now making max money), there should be less of a burden on Aldridge as the team starts over and grows up together.
But as he advances further into his prime, what once looked like an ideal situation for a player like him is now murky, unpredictable and may take some time to sort itself out.