Portland Trail Blazers General Manager: LaMarcus Aldridge Is 'No. 1 Priority'

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2014

May 14, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) in game five of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 104-82. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2013-14 season, questions lingered regarding LaMarcus Aldridge's future with the Portland Trail Blazers

As rumors swirled around Aldridge's potential destinations, the Blazers held firm. And they should be glad they did. 

Considered a fringe playoff contender prior to what amounted to a tremendously fruitful campaign, the Blazers exploded to the tune of 54 wins, the Western Conference's No. 5 seed and a first-round "upset" of the Houston Rockets

So after Aldridge flourished by posting career-best averages of 23.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Blazers general manager Neil Olshey is making his offensive centerpiece priority No. 1 entering the offseason, according to The Oregonian's Joe Freeman: 

Could that mean a contract extension for the 28-year-old mid-range juggernaut? According to ShamSports, Aldridge has one year and a shade over $16 million remaining on his current contract, which is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. 

But according to ESPN's Marc Stein, Blazers fans shouldn't hold their breath in anticipation of a new deal: 

Aldridge wants to be a Blazer. He's made that pretty clear. 

But his last deal wasn't quite a max deal, which limits the size of the extension he can receive. So Portland might be forced to wait until after Aldridge plays out the final season of his contract at just over $16 million and hits free agency on July 1, 2015. 

However, the fact remains that Aldridge appears quite content with the direction of the franchise, which he reiterated during the team's exit interviews. 

"I think we definitely got better this year," Aldridge said, according to The Oregonian's Sean Meagher. "I think going to the second round shows us that every person on the team has to work harder to get better next year, even myself." 

So while it may take a bit of time for Aldridge to get the max deal he covets, the Blazers appear willing to spare no expense when it comes to keeping the franchise in the thick of the Western Conference title race. 

November 23, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12, right) celebrates with point guard Damian Lillard (0) against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Trail Blazers defeated

With the club entering a crucial stretch during which Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard have the ability to vault the Blazers into perennial title contention, the franchise will need to appease its dominant power forward in any way possible. 

Whether that means shelling out a new contract or bringing aboard key components to help make the Blazers' title dreams a reality, the future is clearly going to center around Aldridge and his exceptional offensive versatility.