The main concern for the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason will be whether or not LaMarcus Aldridge re-signs with the team despite the temptations from bigger markets. It’s easy to forget that Damian Lillard is also facing an extension which is another major priority for the team to engage.
The season ended in disappointment for the Blazers. From being a team that takes the next step after making the conference semifinals in 2014, they got ousted in five games by the Grizzlies in the first round. Would had it been easier with Wesley Matthews playing? Probably. But the Blazers, most of them at least and especially Aldridge, played poorly throughout the entire series. It sends them into the offseason with the feeling that whatever’s been built might come undone without ever fulfilling their full potential.
Aldridge isn’t saying what he prefers. Before the season began he said more than once that he’s all for re-signing with the team, getting the five-year, max deal, which the Blazers will be offering him. But New York, Los Angeles, Boston and maybe others are going to try and show him that there’s a better life outside the Northwest. Allegedly, Aldridge pushed for a trade last season to play for the Chicago Bulls, the team that originally drafted him.
Wesley Matthews is another headache. The undrafted shooting guard is now a fine two-way guard. Not elite, and you’ll never hear him being mentioned as one of the best in the league at his position, but he’s a vital asset for the Blazers who can spread the floor and guard wing shooters pretty well, scoring 15.9 points per game and posting a +9 net rating during his minutes this season, keeping up his very good numbers from last season when it comes to per minute and possession.
Matthews made $7.2 million on the last season of his five-year deal with the Blazers which was worth $34 million, signed as a restricted free agent on the Mid Level Exception in 2010. Now, he needs to be re-signed, and he’s probably worth more than $7 million a season. When you consider Robin Lopez is going to want a raise ($6.1 million last season), Aldridge is getting a deal (at least the Blazers are hoping he agrees) and Lillard is going to get extended, the team with the richest owner in the league isn’t going to stay with a lot of space to make additional signings, at least not in 2016.
The Blazers, besides their financial debating, have other issues to consider, most of them regarding the bench. C.J. McCollum has finally stepped up and no longer looks like a rookie mistake, which can solve a lot of scoring issues for Portland next season with their second unit. Some point play and wing defense off the bench is the next thing they need to figure out, in an attempt to not just keep a promising, talented team together, but actually try to improve it so they finally make a deep playoff run, something fans at Portland haven’t experienced in a very long time.