The Portland Trailblazers went above and beyond expectations in 2013-2014, proving to be one of the league's strongest success stories.
Playing around Lamarcus Aldridge, the forward who was on fire for the majority of the season, averaging 23 points a game, the team who was not on anyone's radar at the beginning of the year, made the second round of the playoffs after battling through an all-around great season, too.
Aldridge was being shopped a bit in 2012-2013, and some say even at the beginning of this past year, but after the playoffs, now there is talk that the Blazers might keep the 28 year old for the long haul. His contract for this season is at $16 million and if he plays out his deal without signing an extension, he would become a free agent in July of 2015, which is when Kevin Love also will be a free agent if he is not traded before then. Many believe if he planned to sign that extension, he would have done it already.
Aldridge played strong throughout the 2013-14 season, but he found another gear in the playoffs, scoring 40 points in back to back games and leading Portland in scoring. The team has to deal with a looming contract for emerging star Damian Lillard and that could affect how much they have for Aldridge. Much like what is being gone over in the Kevin Love coverage, the Trailblazers must decide whether they wants to let Aldridge leave for nothing after next season or trade him now or at the deadline to ensure they get a return.
The Blazers won a playoff series for the first time in a decade and they have a strong pair of franchise type players to build around in Aldridge and Lillard now. So no doubt, they want to keep the team together.
Aldridge brought in 11 rebounds per game last season and was one of the most consistent players in the NBA, showing up whenever he was on the court. Aldridge will be a prime target for teams if he hits the market and the Blazers have to do their best to try and keep him after their great success this season. The Knicks have shown interest, and that will only increase to the tune of a max contract for Aldridge once Carmelo Anthony is gone. Aldridge's loyalty to Portland, and his faith in the Trailblazer's ability to take it to the next level will be tested when Anthony leaves New York this summer. The Trailblazers might find it hard to turn down Tyson Chandler and whatever else the Knicks could add to make the deal happen.
Portland will be just a million or so over the expected salary cap level this summer, and while it was once thought that reserve guard Mo Williams would opt out of the final year of his contract (set for $2.7 million next season), the ankle injury he had at the end of the season may hamper the 31-year old's ability to earn more than that.