After spending his first nine years of his career in Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge is an unrestricted free-agent with several suitors. As the free-agency period rolls around, Aldridge is scheduled to meet with several teams in order to figure how where his best destination will be.
One of the suitors is none other than the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs.
After close to two decades with the same core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs are beginning to see the end of the original big 3 era, with all three players on the wrong side of 30. While the Spurs are likely to have Kawhi Leonard to build around in the post-Duncan era, Aldridge would be a perfect player to build with alongside Leonard as the Spurs move forward.
While the Spurs could certainly use Aldridge, he could also use the Spurs as he enters the latter part of his career.
Aldridge is coming off arguably his best season, despite playing with a thumb that required surgery this off-season. Despite his injury, Aldridge played 71 games and started each time on his way to averaging a career best 23.4 points per game this season. He added 10.2 rebounds per game, making last season his second consecutive season averaging a double-double after he averaged 23.2 points and 11.1 rebounds in 2013-14.
Considering he was carrying a significant hand injury for much of last season, it is amazing that Aldridge had arguably his best shooting season last season. Aldridge shot a career-best 35.2 percent from long range last season, as well as a career-best 84.5 percent from the free-throw line.
With these numbers, it is evident why the Spurs could use Aldridge as they move forward. But why San Antonio over Houston, LA, Portland among others?
The Spurs continued excellence is something that has been well documented. Under Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have had 16 consecutive 50-win seasons as well as winning five NBA titles. Unlike many successful dynasties, the Spurs dynasty is one that is devoid of characters with large egos. Popovich holds each of his players accountable no matter how distinguished their careers may be.
Aldridge’s personality nor game is hardly “Hollywood” or box-office, despite his impressive statistics. Like Duncan, Aldridge has a relatively stoic demeanour and simply goes about his business just like the Spurs do. Throughout his nine years as a Trail Blazer, Aldridge often flew under the radar in the discussion of elite power-forwards, with the likes of Blake Griffin and Kevin Love attracting more fanfare. Playing in San Antonio, Aldridge would be presented with a similar situation to the one he had in Portland, and therefore is likely to fit in more comfortably than he would in a big market team in Los Angeles or New York, where the expectations could be overwhelming.
Opportunity to Win
Of all his suitors, the Spurs have the most stable framework for consistent winning. Their scouts have an unbelievable eye for talent, and have been known to add savvy players as opposed to overpaid stars. With the owner Peter Holt, General Manager R.C. Buford, Aldridge can be sure that he will be put in a winning situation year after year. This stability is something that the other 29 franchises constantly strive to achieve, and something this other suitors have often failed to do.
At 30, Aldridge is no spring-chicken and he is likely to want to win, having never been past the second round in his career. While the Houston Rockets made the Western Conference Finals this year, and certainly present a chance to win, the Spurs track record makes all other suitors pale in comparison.
San Antonio presents the unique opportunity for Aldridge to be the centrepiece while also being a contender for a championship. With Duncan and Parker ageing, it is highly likely that Aldridge would be the Spurs no.1 offensive option. Furthermore, with Popovich at the helm and being surrounded by the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge is likely to be in the best basketball situation for himself.
While he has gradually shifted to the centre position in his twilight years, Duncan is widely recognised as the greatest power forward in the history of the NBA. Playing alongside Duncan for the final years of his career, Aldridge would have the opportunity to be around Duncan every day and learn what it takes to be one of the greatest. Additionally, Aldridge could emulate Duncan’s longevity by learning how Duncan looks after his body through the grind of the regular season as well as the off-season.
Aldridge is already considered a good player, but playing alongside and learning from Duncan could potentially catapult him into the all-time great category.
To be able to offer Aldridge a max-contract, the Spurs would have to potentially shuffle around a few pieces in their team, something which is highlighted here on the Spurs’ SB nation page ‘Pounding the Rock‘.
However, the unique opportunity to get paid max dollars, as well as being the centrepiece of a championship-calibre team is something that Aldridge is likely to find very hard to turn down.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.