At least if you listen to the rumors. The first two descriptions are undeniable, but the third is still up for debate.
It all started with a Chad Ford comment during an ESPN chat session in June:
I think that the Blazers will listen to Aldridge offers. Seriously listen. Given how good he is, I do think there's a solid chance he's played his last game in a Blazers jersey. The Blazers aren't going to give him away obviously, but he's an intriguing trade target for a lot of teams.
Then the Daily Herald's Mike McGraw followed up with a report that Aldridge was unhappy in Portland: "Word is, Aldridge wants to escape from Portland's rebuilding project and has made it known that he'd like to land in Chicago."
Nothing has happened since then, but there's a lot of time left before the 2013-14 season begins. With rosters starting to get settled, the chances for a trade are higher than ever. Teams have identified their weaknesses and where they stand in the NBA hierarchy, so they're able to react accordingly.
For the sake of the argument, let's assume that the Blazers feel like they have to deal the big man. Which offers would force them to engage in discussions?
- Cleveland Cavaliers get LaMarcus Aldridge
- Golden State Warriors get Ryan Anderson and first-round pick in 2015 (from New Orleans Pelicans)
- New Orleans Pelicans get Anderson Varejao
- Portland Trail Blazers get David Lee, C.J. Miles, a first-round pick in 2014 (from Cleveland Cavaliers) and a first-round pick in 2015 (from Cleveland Cavaliers)
The original idea for this trade comes from B/R's Dan Favale, although slight alterations have been made since his version was published before the 2013 NBA draft and the beginning of the free-agency period changed some things up.
Hard as it may be for a four-team trade to appease all interested parties, this one does.
The Cleveland Cavaliers get to upgrade from Anderson Varejao to LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt. While that would leave the team without a true center, both Aldridge and Tristan Thompson are capable of manning the 5. Aldridge would also bring an element of floor spacing that the frontcourt has lacked for a while.
For the Golden State Warriors, they get to replace one offensive power forward with another. But Ryan Anderson is even better at spacing the court than David Lee, so that will open things up even more for the rest of the team.
Of course, Lee is undeniably better than Anderson, so the Dubs get a first-round pick likely to be in the mid-teens as compensation.
The New Orleans Pelicans would be opening up more playing time at the 4 for Anthony Davis and replacing the Greg Stiemsma-Jason Smith-Jeff Withey trio with one of the most underrated centers in the game.
Finally, the Portland Trail Blazers downgrade at power forward, but they keep a major offensive presence at the 4, add a little wing depth and pick up two first-round picks in the process.
It's the ultra-rare win-win-win-win.
Potential Trade: LaMarcus Aldridge for Luol Deng and a first-round pick in 2014
Trading LaMarcus Aldridge for Luol Deng has a number of benefits for the Portland Trail Blazers, largely because two scenarios present themselves.
In the first, Deng thrives once he moves to Rip City. His defense and versatile offensive game are invaluable, and he becomes more efficient than ever without Tom Thibodeau playing him for ridiculous amounts of time night in and night out.
Portland recognizes his value and signs him to a massive contract extension, thereby guaranteeing a potent wing presence for the foreseeable future.
However, let's assume that things don't go so smoothly for Deng in a Blazers uniform.
If that happens, Portland has picked up an eight-figure expiring contract that leaves the team with plenty of cap room for the stacked 2014 free-agent class. With a number of superstars expected to be available, as well as some top-tier frontcourt players, the Blazers would be set to pursue a big name during the offseason.
The Chicago Bulls are admittedly getting the more valuable player in this deal, which is why they're offering a tiny bit of compensation in the form of a draft pick that will likely fall near the very end of the first round.
Potential Trade: Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a top-five protected first-round pick in 2014 for LaMarcus Aldridge
The Portland Trail Blazers already have some nice young talent on the roster with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard. Thomas Robinson could also start living up to his potential as well.
However, they aren't ready to compete for a title yet, and if you aren't in championship contention, then you need to start doing everything possible to get there.
Can you imagine the long-term potential in Rip City if they traded LaMarcus Aldridge for Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a first-round pick that would suddenly be likely to fall in right around No. 6 or 7 in a stacked class?
What would a Lillard-McCollum-MKG-Zeller-Leonard lineup look like in three years? It could be one of the more potent units out there if the players develop as expected. Add in Robinson off the bench and another high-potential young guy from the draft pick, and you're looking at a team rebuilding in proper fashion.
Youth movements aren't always popular for fanbases, but it has to be more appealing than employing an unhappy Aldridge and stagnating at the bottom of the lottery for another few years.
Potential Trade: LaMarcus Aldridge for Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey
The presence of Thomas Robinson in the Portland frontcourt allows this team to move LaMarcus Aldridge without receiving a true power forward in return. And while the acquisition of Robin Lopez makes finding a center less of a priority, that's still a weak spot for the Blazers.
Greg Monroe remains one of the premier young centers in the NBA, but he no longer fits in perfectly with the Detroit Pistons now that Joe Dumars got spend-happy and acquired Josh Smith. Swapping Monroe for Aldridge makes sense for the Pistons, as the Portland big man can help space the court and take some of the perimeter pressure off Smoove.
According to 82games.com, Monroe has thrived offensively more as a center than a power forward despite his lack of elite athleticism. During the 2012-13 season, he posted a 16.0 PER at power forward and 20.5 at center.
Monroe has admittedly struggled defensively against bigger players, but the Blazers have capable defenders ready to come off the bench. Lopez in particular thrives against pick-and-rolls, even if he doesn't often get credit for it.
To make the salaries work out, Detroit would also have to include Rodney Stuckey, whose contract expires after the 2013-14 season.
Potential Trade: LaMarcus Aldridge and 2014 first-round draft pick for David Lee and Harrison Barnes
The Golden State Warriors have been quite busy during the 2013 offseason. Even though their pursuit of Dwight Howard ultimately failed, they upgraded the team rather significantly by turning expiring contracts and Brandon Rush into Andre Iguodala.
By adding Iggy to the roster, the Dubs effectively made Harrison Barnes expendable. Even though his upside is tremendous—why else do you think the Blazers would trade for him?—his skill-set isn't as important now that the team employs one of the premier swingmen in the game.
For Portland, downgrading from Aldridge to Lee makes sense if they can add a high-potential player like the UNC product. Plus Lee's defensive porosity would be partially masked by Robin Lopez's abilities on that end of the court.
Lee's offense is also invaluable, so the Blazers wouldn't be giving up much in that regard.
This move might set Portland back a bit in the present, but adding Barnes is worth it. You can always tell how good a trade is by looking at the reactions from the other team's fanbases. Something tells me that you're about to see some protests from Golden State fans, stemming from the fact that I have them giving up the small forward in this deal.