LaMarcus Aldridge is eighth in the NBA in scoring at 20.8 points per game.
Aldridge, 27, still hasn't reached his peak. He made his first All-Star appearance last season and is one of the premier power forwards in the game today.
Barring drastic changes, however, the Blazers will not be in the championship hunt this year—or even next year with a roster with an average age of 24.7 years old.
With the right moves by general manager Neil Olshey, Portland can be a contender in three years as it builds around rookie Damian Lillard (22) and Nicolas Batum (24). But by then, Aldridge will be on the wrong side of 30 years old.
Should the Blazers trade Aldridge, in order to get younger and find pieces that fit more within the team's youthful core of Lillard and Batum?
According to Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com, the answer is yes.
There's a perception around here that [Aldridge is] a superstar. That he's a premier player. That he's a No. 1 option. And with all that in mind, that he's untradeable and a key piece of the team's future.
I don't think he's really any of those things. In fact, I think the highest value he has to this franchise is as a valuable piece to trade to another team for talented younger players.
Jaynes argues that Aldridge is not a legitimate No. 1 option in this league, he's soft offensively and defensively and the fact that he doesn't make players around him better makes him unfit to be a superstar in the NBA.
Should the Blazers trade LaMarcus Aldridge for younger pieces and draft picks?
According to John Canzano of The Oregonian, the Blazers' most pressing question is if they can keep Aldridge's spirits high through another rebuilding phase after career-ending injuries to once franchise pillars Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.
The goal is to prevent Aldridge from getting frustrated to the point of demanding a trade.
Management has told Aldridge, a six-year veteran, that he won't be traded within the next two years. The Blazers will look to improve the roster drastically next summer with their cap space (via Jason Quick of The Oregonian).
That satisfied Aldridge enough.
"[Olshey] said they still feel I have a big role here," Aldridge told The Oregonian. "They are still interested in me leading the team, that nothing has changed. And that's what I wanted to hear, because I never wanted to go."
Aldridge says he's willing to stick through it, so why trade him?
Making that move could set Portland back another five years in rebuilding. Acquiring players of his caliber is not easy. That is the hard part when building a franchise.
Getting equal value for a 27-year-old All-Star on the upswing of his career is difficult. It would not be beneficial to let him go.
Aldridge is eighth in the NBA in scoring (20.6 PPG)—one of just 10 players in the league averaging at least 20 per game. He is also fifth in the NBA among forwards, just behind Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kevin Love.
He is averaging career highs in assists (3.0) and blocks (1.3), while his rebounding average (7.5) is on par with his career.
The talent pool in the NBA is not what it once was, so keeping players like Aldridge should be at a premium.
The biggest compliments for a player can come from his peers, and whom else would you want an endorsement from than LeBron James?
Man LaMarcus Aldridge aka LA got so much game!! Smooth out there.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 4, 2012
The Blazers sit at 6-8 right now. The problem, however, is not Aldridge, or needing to trade him for younger pieces.
The bigger issue is addressing Portland's depth next offseason. While the Blazers' starters are No. 1 in the league in scoring (85.6 PPG), their bench is No. 30—dead last—in scoring (12.8 PPG), via HoopsStats.com.
The team's future rests in Olshey's hands.
Portland's new general manager was instrumental in building the Los Angeles Clippers' depth with Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Reggie Evans, Nick Young, DeAndre Jordan and Kenyon Martin last season (via Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times).
The Blazers know where their weaknesses lie, and it would be foolish to blow it up by trading their franchise player before Olshey has even a chance to fulfill his vision.
Fortunes can change quickly in the NBA with the right moves.
The former New Jersey Nets were pitiful last season with a 22-44 record and missed the playoffs. The now Brooklyn Nets added several key pieces around Deron Williams and are now 9-4, sit atop the Atlantic Division and are No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.
It can be done.
Portland definitely is not a championship contender today, much less a playoff contender.
The goal is always to win a title, but trading Aldridge at this juncture is not the right move.