Feb 11, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) takes a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder with 5 seconds remaining in the game at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

LaMarcus Aldridge: Stars Want to Play in Portland

For Portland fans Sunday night’s All-Star game was basically a ho-hum event. They were one of only four teams to have multiple participants suit up for the game, but LaMarcus Aldridge only played 13 minutes and Damian Lillard only played nine. Aldridge finished with four points and five rebounds on 2-of-9 shooting, while Lillard had nine points on three made 3-pointers, going 3-for-8 overall.

The fireworks for Portland may have happened after the game, however. Aldridge was talking to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com and gave us this little nugget (read Haynes’ full story here) when asked about the possibility of All-Stars coming to Portland to play.

“Definitely a few guys have told me that this weekend. I think winning and type of people that we are will attract people. In that way, I guess we are recruiting but I haven’t actively done so.”

The telling part is that both Aldridge and Lillard came out and said they did not seek any of the other players out regarding playing in Portland, which means they were approached unsolicited. Some of these ideas are fairy tales to be sure — we won’t be seeing LeBron James or Kevin Durant in a Trail Blazer uniform anytime soon. However, other guys who are there and are coming up on free agency could be realistic.

Imagine … Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Carmelo Anthony on one roster! OK, I’ll stop … for now.

The Blazers are in a precarious position moving forward because they only have two people dropping off the books this offseason in Earl Watson ($1.39 million) and Mo Williams ($2.65 million). Mo already declined his player option for the 2014-15 season, which was for $2.77 million.

The NBA’s salary cap is at $58,679,000 this season and if we assume it will stay the same next year, then the Blazers really don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to free agents — unless they are willing to pay the luxury tax. As it stands now (without re-signing Mo Williams) their 2014-15 salary total will be $62,060,823 — already a little more than $3 million over the cap. The tax ceiling is $71,748,000 so again, they have some wiggle room, but realistically they are not making a big splash in free agency this off-season.

Who Should They Target?

I know we are WAY early to be talking who the Blazers should go after this offseason, because we don’t have any idea how this season plays out. Maybe the Blazers make a miracle run and end up in the NBA Finals, maybe they lose in a tough second-round matchup and maybe they stink it up and don’t pass the first round. We don’t know … and that’s where most of the fun is found!

Without making any trades, it’s really hard to see the Blazers signing a big name in free agency, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be players out there who can provide depth. Depth is certainly something that is lacking on this roster and the starters will most likely stay the same through at least 2014/15.

So, who should they go get? James Johnson. Johnson would provide depth and though his offense isn’t up to par with the rest of the Blazer roster, his defense and energy is something that is sorely needed on this team. Honestly I would love for the Blazers to make a play for him at the deadline but there have been zero talks of this, and to be honest the price might be steep considering how well he’s played for Memphis.

Johnson averages 8.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks — all in only 22.1 minutes a night. The per/36 number are pretty damn good too:

2013-14 26 MEM .453 .254 .830 6.8 4.3 1.9 2.6 2.5 3.7 13.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/17/2014.

His salary this season is $680,263 but he’s surely played himself into the $2 million to $3 million per year range for Memphis this year. Don’t re-sign Mo Williams (replace him with C.J. McCollum) and go get someone who helps on both ends of the floor.

Wishful thinking? Maybe — but this is much more realistic than me yelling “Go get MELO!”.

Tags: Damian Lillard Lamarcus Aldridge Portland Trail Blazers

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