LaMarcus Aldridge made us all sweat it out, but in the end, he chose the Spurs, as most of us thought he would. That means he didn’t choose the Lakers or Knicks.
What Aldridge did is becoming a refreshing trend in the NBA. Not picking the Spurs, necessarily, but making a decision about picking the right franchise over the right city. Yes, LMA is a Texas native, but had he been picking a destination alone, he would have gone to Dallas. This was a calculated move to not only win now, but also prolong his career with an organization that takes care of its stars.
Players had no problem joining forces with LeBron in Miami – no surprise there. However, now we’re learning players will also pick the Cavs as long as James is there to anchor the franchise. Owner Dan Gilbert has made it clear that money ain’t a thang this offseason, which has led to Cleveland (likely) retaining all of its stars, and looking to add more.
This isn’t just happening with elite franchises either. Players are starting to make real “basketball decisions.”
The amounts of money being thrown around this offseason certainly help make decisions easier, but just look at Greg Monroe for example. Monroe picked the Bucks over the Knicks in free agency – a prime example of franchise over city. Passing on the allure of New York was the right call for a player like Monroe, who will now join a talented young core in Milwaukee. It will prove to be the right decision too.
Signings like Monroe will be the reason the NBA’s future is going to get brighter – moves that improve the product on the floor, no matter where that may take a player. But make no mistake, in the present, this means we can lock up a Spurs vs. Cavs NBA Finals in 2016.
No disrespect to the Warriors. They’re going to be in contention for at least the next five seasons. They’ll be back to the Finals, and likely even win another. It’s just not happening next season. Maintaining the success that they bottled last season, all while being blessed with good health, is very difficult to achieve (and also takes some luck).
We’ll be getting another chapter of LeBron vs. Duncan, thanks to Aldridge. And although LeBron alone is probably enough to get his team back to the Finals, the Cavs’ re-signings (and continuous trade pursuits) will give them enough to actually be a threat to win it all.
The latest rumor is that the Cavs are attempting to add Joe Johnson. Although it may be just for a bench role, that’s exactly the reason it’s so difficult to envision the Finals without the Cavs in it. The same goes for the Spurs, who now look to fill the cracks on their roster with trusted veterans willing to accept smaller roles. (UPDATE: Adding guys like David West on veteran minimum salaries helps that agenda. And don’t forget to give West HUGE props for putting his money where his mouth is. Said he wants to win, walked away from $12 million to sign for $1.2 million with Spurs. Wow.)
It may not be the best news for these player’s fantasy values, starting with a guy like Aldridge. He’s very unlikely to have a career season statistically, but he has his greatest chance ever to achieve the ultimate team goal (by a wide margin). These are the types of free agency decisions that need to keep happening if we want to see a more balanced league. And for us fantasy guys, we find value elsewhere. Just look at the addition of Mason Plumlee in Portland. With LMA and Robin Lopez gone, that’s a guy that figures as a no brainer to breakout in ’15-16.
Again, right now it means we may witness one of the most predictable Finals in ages. But long-term the NBA is in a great place with spending money about to be in all 30 team’s pockets, and more importantly, the players willing to hear all of them out if it’s a good basketball fit. Who knows, maybe in three years it’s the Bucks we’re talking about as the favorites.
If there’s any single thing the NBA could benefit from, it’s having enough balance to make the postseason more unpredictable. It feels like we may be heading in that direction.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow