LaMarcus Aldridge is probably the most prominent free agent with a realistic chance of leaving his current team. With rumors swirling – and him recently being spotted at Logan Airport in Boston – it seems like a good time to discuss the future of the Portland big man.
Of course, Aldridge could choose to go nowhere – there are worse situations than playing in Rip City with a rising star like Damian Lillard. But being a free agent is about find your perfect fit, not settling for an ok one. So what are the options he’s weighing? It sounds like there are four destinations that Aldridge is considering when it comes to his decision.
Sources with knowledge of his situation will tell you that Aldridge is leaning towards his hometown Dallas Mavericks. However, the “coming home” pitch is just about all the Mark Cuban and the Mavs can offer.
Yes, the idea of a Dirk/LaMarcus duo would give Randolph and Gasol a run for their money as the best combo of bigs out west. But there’s no way this Mavericks team could actually win.
Rajon Rondo, J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler are all on their way out of town, and we still need to see what happens with Monta Ellis as well. Chandler Parsons would add stability to a nice frontcourt if Aldridge were to come to Dallas, but it just isn’t a winning formula. Plenty of time to live at home in Dallas after you retire, LaMarcus.
There’s another option for LMA if he wants to be in Texas, and it makes a lot more sense if he likes winning – the San Antonio Spurs. Locking up Kawhi Leonard long-term is clearly the Spurs’ priority this offseason, but they can still fit Aldridge into the picture.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both free agents this summer, and are expected to return to San Antonio on friendly hometown discounts. The Spurs also have Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes, Corey Joseph and Jeff Ayers all coming off the books which frees up a total of about $16.5 million in cap space.
Although they’d like some of those players back (particularly Green), the money for Aldridge is there, even while keeping Leonard, Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker. Sounds like a finals favorite to me.
Playing with Kobe
Ah, it’s good to be the Lakers. They’re in the conversation … well, simply because they’re the Lakers.
They have Kobe, we still need to find out what Julius Randle is, and the No. 2 pick is going to be an intriguing player no matter what way L.A. decides to go with it (and whether or not they think they can land Aldridge could have a lot to do with which direction they go with that pick).
But when it comes down to it, Aldridge would be choosing the Lakers simply for the name. If Kobe somehow makes it through this season healthy (a minor miracle at this stage), he’s still on his way out. Even if the No. 2 pick develops into a star, this leaves LMA nowhere better than playing with Lillard in Portland, and with an even worse supporting cast.
Joining a Youth Movement
If LaMarcus is going to pick a historic franchise to hit the reset button with, look no further than the Boston Celtics. It could be viewed as rolling the dice by not pairing up with a Duncan/Dirk/Kobe type force, but the reality is that Boston would be a great landing spot for Aldridge.
For starters, welcome to the Eastern Conference! No more battling a top team every night just to fall into the five-seed and get eliminated in the first-round like clockwork. This would have to be a breath of fresh air for Aldridge. Joining a young team that already made the playoffs without him, and is expected to grow only more next season. That’s appealing.
Aldridge would immediately become the face of the franchise, joining forces with Isaiah Thomas to likely attempt to recruit another big name to come to town over the next year or so (it’s already rumored that he and Thomas had dinner during his weekend in town). Pile on the young core of Bradley, Smart, Sullinger, Crowder, Olynyk and Zeller, and maybe the C’s can be contenders in the east.
Stepping into Aldridge’s Shoes
If I’m Aldridge, as spectacular as D-Lillard is, it’s time for me to get out of Portland. The success has just never been there. Unless I’m just trying to move to an ideal geographic location right now (and many NBA players are), I can rule out the Mavs and Lakers. They just aren’t place I feel I can realistically win anytime soon.
That means the decision comes down to San Antonio and Boston. The Celtics present a great opportunity. They make me the face of the organization, and surround me with young players while promising to find more talent to bring on board in the near future. In the east, I could realistically be dueling with LeBron’s Cavs each year with a trip to the Finals on the line.
With that said, the Spurs are the perfect option. Sure, some people will say I’m just going back to my home state, but that’s simply a bonus. I get to try and win a ring right away with the greatest organization of the last 15 or 16 years. I get to learn from Duncan and Popovich, while also being the star of the team alongside one of the brightest young talents in the game. And when the old “Big 3” are done, Kawhi and myself can fully take over the reigns and try and recruit another player to join us.
Thanks for the looks, L.A. and Dallas. Boston, I see you over there. But San Antonio, here I come.
For comments find me on Twitter @julianedlow