Whether on the court or off, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge joining the Spurs made perfect sense as they look to revamp their roster for the future and immediate contention. Aldridge is signing a four-year maximum contract with the Spurs, which is worth more than $80-million, with an opt-out after year three.
Aldridge chose San Antonio over Phoenix and Portland, the latter could offer him more money, but Aldridge wanted to be in a position to win immediately. With the Spurs, it looks like that should become reality.
Aldridge joins Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and, reportedly, Tim Duncan in the Spurs starting lineup, a group that looks title-contention worthy on paper. Aldridge should fit nicely with his versatility, passing and stretch ability from either frontcourt position.
With key reserves like Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and possibly future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili returning, San Antonio is locked and loaded for another run at a title. The Spurs still need to round out their bench, and if second-year swingman Kyle Anderson can make a leap and they can sign free agent power forward David West, look for San Antonio to have one of the deepest rosters in the league.
It took two pitches from head coach Gregg Popovich to win over Aldridge, the first last Wednesday included Duncan, Leonard and Parker. Popovich’s winning pitch came Friday in Los Angeles and included the ability for Aldridge to be the linchpin of the future after Duncan retires alongside Leonard.
Aldridge gets to play again in Texas and reside in San Antonio, less than 300 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where he grew up. Aldridge last played in Texas during his college career, spending two seasons at the University of Texas, playing under coach Rick Barnes.
Now, Aldridge gets a chance to win a ring immediately, as him joining the Spurs make them 2-1 favorites to win the West, over Oklahoma City and defending champion Golden State. The Spurs also have the second-best odds to win the title at 4-1, behind Cleveland at 9-4.
Aldridge’s departure hurts Portland more than it helps San Antonio, however. Portland now looks like a lottery-bound team with the departures of four players in their starting five in Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. This group doesn’t even include reserves like Arron Afflalo, Steve Blake and Thomas Robinson.
But at least the Blazers still have franchise point guard Damian Lillard, who has lead them to consecutive 50+ win seasons. The Blazers have tried to revamp their roster on the fly, trading for frontcourt players Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh and swingmen Pat Connaughton and Gerald Henderson, but the loss of a talent like Aldridge is just too much.
In the Western Conference, where teams need almost 50 wins to make the playoffs, it takes franchise-caliber talent to compete with the best teams. The loss of Aldridge might take years for the Blazers to regroup from, as there remains only one franchise talent in Portland.
For now, it seems like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in the competitive Western Conference. It’s going to be a joy to watch the NBA next year as the ageless San Antonio Spurs look to win their sixth title in 17 years.