LaMarcus Aldridge rumors heated up around draft time, with the Portland TrailBlazers All-Star supposedly wanting to leave his younger team and head towards more of a big-market contender and the Bulls at the top of that list. After that notion went away for a bit, there have been a couple of interesting mentions of Aldridge that were somewhat buried in general Free Agency columns over the holiday weekend.
sources said the Bulls continue to rebuff attempts by the shared agency of Rose and LaMarcus Aldridge to bring the Trail Blazers' All-Star forward to Chicago. Sources said the Bulls have been unwilling to discuss a deal of Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler for Aldridge.
Though rumors about a proposed deal that would send [Joakim Noah] to Portland in exchange for LaMarcus Aldridge — which was reportedly discussed and summarily turned down by the Bulls in February, according to a source, though recent reports indicate that the Trail Blazers would also want Butler in the package — won’t go away, the Bulls regard Noah as virtually untouchable.
assuming the rumor about [Noah's] unlikely trade to Portland for All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge doesn't come to fruition, though one league source believes the Bulls are now at least pondering the move
I suppose it's a factor of how reliable these reporters think the sources are with this information, because to me it's kind of burying the lead: Derrick Rose's agents are trying to get LaMarcus Aldridge to Chicago? To me that's more substantive evidence of Aldridge's exit plan than the rumors that he was merely potentially unhappy there. While such agent (Arn Tellem, the one-time summer-sleepaway-camp-canoe-partner of Jerry Reinsdorf) shenanigans are commonplace in the big power brokering of the NBA, they seems to rarely involve the Bulls. Rose, or at least his people, getting involved in the Bulls acquiring another All-Star is encouraging...in some ways. But though it could be seen as meddlesome I'm a fan of some kind of urgency being displayed somewhere.
It's a good first step, but there is an obvious partner in this transaction with little interest in helping the Bulls out, and that's the Blazers themselves. The rumored case for Aldridge wanting to leave is the competitiveness of Portland's roster in the Western Conference, and for their part, the Blazers have been active in the offseason adding depth around Aldridge and rookie of the year Damian Lillard.
While those moves won't have Portland project to challenge for the Western Conference title, they do have an emerging playoff-contending team. And thus would be reason for them to stick with their demands of at least Joakim Noah in any deal.
And to that notion from the Bulls perspective: No. And hopefully that 'one league source' Sam mentions above is incorrect when he says the Bulls are even pondering it. Even if it was a straight swap without the Bulls throwing in Butler or other assets: Noah is the same age, Aldridge makes more and is a FA a year sooner, and it's not even clear that Aldridge is actually better than Noah when factoring Joakim's importance to the Bulls defense. Furthermore, in terms of team construction it just doesn't make sense for a contending team to try for a slight talent-base improvement if it creates the need for immediate other moves. The idea should be to have those two bigs in tandem.
[the only compelling 'trade Noah' case I can even consider could be if the Bulls determined he is an irredeemable injury risk...]
And maybe it could be that simple, and that's where the Bulls and Blazers ended talks. But what hopefully happens during the course of the season is the situation changing to where the Blazers will relent for a combination of assets and cap relief instead. BlazersEdge recently didn't seem like (from their fan perspective) that it was to that point yet, saying that nothing outside of Noah (or Rose) would even mildly interest their Blazers. But I'd think if Aldridge made it clear he had no interest in staying in Portland beyond the 2014-15 season the Bulls offering a combination of Butler, first-round picks (including one owed from Charlotte), the rights of Nikola Mirotic or other recent draftees would generate some interest. As BlazersEdge even said, that's the usual course for an All-Star trade.
Matching salaries for trade purposes may be trickier, which probably also hurt the Bulls chances of consumating a draft-night deal. Midseason may be tough as well. Luol Deng is the Bulls biggest expiring contract, but he's not only crucial to a championship run this year but of likely little use for the Blazers. Taj Gibson doesn't make quite enough, and could be seen as an onerous contract depending on how the first season of his contract extension goes. Boozer matches in terms of dollars, but has a huge number ($16.8m!) for the following season (which unlike the Bulls, the Blazers couldn't amnesty).
So it may not be until next offseason, when the situation could degrade further and Boozer may be more palatable as an expiring deal for Portland (or a 3rd team). And of course, the Bulls just use amnesty on him. If the Bulls go that last route (which I wouldn't be that certain of, given the dollar cost to ownership...though they've surprised us lately on that front!) and let Luol Deng walk as well, while the Bulls wouldn't have the cap space to acquire Aldridge outright they would likely have enough for a lopsided deal that wouldn't require Portland taking on a 'bad' Bulls contract. Hey, that sorta sounds like a 2014 plan!
[though I should mention that since Aldridge would be under contract, there's nothing in the CBA that would technically keep a tax-straddling Bulls team from getting Aldridge either, that restriction only applies to sign/trades]
There's a lot that can change between now and then, least of which is the Bulls going for The Finals this season. But getting another star (saying 'second star' seems silly if you feel like I do in that Noah is just as good) through a trade is more possible in 2014. I think it's pretty big news that while perhaps the Bulls haven't targeted Aldridge, he and his people have targeted Chicago.