Ken Berger: ‘A Foregone Conclusion Aldridge Leaves Blazers’

Ken Berger typically doesn’t like jumping to conclusions, but he feels pretty good about this one.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who has spent all nine of his NBA seasons in Portland, has likely donned a Trail Blazers jersey for the last time.

“I may be going way, way too far out on a limb on this, but I think it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he leaves,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I believe the Spurs and the Mavs are the teams that are at the top of the list and by far the favorites to land him. He’s from Texas. He’s from Dallas, in fact, but the Spurs are going to put the full-court press on him. Once they get Kawhi Leonard resigned – or agree to resign him after July 1 rings in – he and Tim Duncan, who I believe will be back for his 19th season, will put the full-court press on and try to bring LaMarcus to the Spurs.”

How long Aldridge signs with San Antonio or Dallas – or any other team, for that matter – will be worth watching. But it doesn’t figure to be very long.

“The interesting quirk with that is with the TV money coming in in 2016, there is virtually no home-team advantage in free agency anymore,” Berger said. “For years, it has been the exception rather than the rule that a player would leave his team as a free agent outright without a sign and trade and go to another team because this is all about money at the end of the day – and I don’t blame these guys. They have a very short shelf life, a very short window in which to earn a lot of money. But that advantage has been taken away.”

That matters for teams, and that matters for players. A lot.

“Let’s say you’re LaMarcus Aldridge or you’re Kawhi Leonard or you’re Marc Gasol and you know that the max salary that your next contract is going to start at is going to be vastly higher a year from now than it is now,” Berger said. “Then why would you sign a five-year deal now? There’s no appeal to that, unless you want to account for the injury risk – and that’s always something that these guys have to consider.

“Dwight Howard was the rare exception of a guy who would leave a team voluntarily and take one less year and less money to go from LA to Houston,” Berger continued. “The vast majority of these guys, they just don’t do that. And I think the way the dynamic is now, it’s set up for guys to be able to make a decision, to leave on a short-term deal. LaMarcus could do a two-year deal with a player option for the second year, go to San Antonio, be productive for a couple of years – or for the first year – opt out and do a long-term deal there. There’s nothing to be lost, except the injury risk, and that’s what these players and their agents will all have to weigh.”

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