With the NBA regular season just days away, the San Antonio Spurs’ big man LaMarcus Aldridge is among the top players in NBA trade rumors. Aldridge is currently part of a Spurs franchise that still is overachieving in the Western Conference thanks to the veteran leadership of head coach Gregg Popovich and their All-Star superstar Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard’s timetable for a return still unknown, a lot of the star leadership has fallen back on Aldridge. However, the Spurs may determine that it’s time to engage in an NBA trade if they aren’t receiving the type of production they want from the big man. Among the potential destinations for Aldridge would be the Phoenix Suns.
ESPN basketball writer Zach Lowe suggests in his “32 crazy predictions” write-up for the NBA season that LaMarcus Aldridge could opt in for his $22 million player option and then get traded by the Spurs. Lowe contends that a few summers ago the belief was that Aldridge was sitting pretty as the salary cap would continue to rise, giving his current team the room to sign him on a bigger deal. However, the cap situation has now changed and teams will be less likely to agree to a $17 million-per-year deal for the former NBA All-Star. It’s also suggested that any team that might be able to offer Aldridge that are not among NBA contenders right now.
When All-Star Kawhi Leonard was injured during the NBA Playoffs, it hurt the Spurs overall. Aldridge was expected to shoulder the load after mostly serving as a sort of role player. He seemed to have issues with regards to returning to his five-time NBA All-Star self in terms of production. A lot of them may have been due to the fact he had to once again take over a leadership role that really had been Leonard’s responsibility Leonard became hurt.
Aldridge had a huge Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors in their Western Conference Championship series, scoring 28 points and grabbing seven rebounds. That game also was the one in which Kawhi Leonard landed badly on his foot and left the game. The Warriors won by just two points in a furious comeback at home. After that, Aldridge never managed to score more than 18 points in the series and had two games with just eight points. The Warriors swept as Leonard watched from the sidelines.
Lowe suggests if the upcoming NBA season doesn’t go well for Aldridge, the Spurs may decide to change up their roster. The belief is that Aldridge would opt in for his $22 million and then agree to a suitable trade situation with the Spurs’ front office. In this way, the Spurs and Aldrige could “move on” to better situations for all involved.
One team that is offered up as a potential landing spot for Aldridge is the Phoenix Suns. The team would have the room to sign him and also features Aldridge’s former teammate Earl Watson as the head coach. Watson spent just his final season playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. The Phoenix Suns also feature plenty of other big men whom the Spurs might decide to take a look at. None of them are necessarily All-Star players yet, but as fans have seen with the players that coach Popovich takes on, stars are often born in his system.
For the 2016-17 NBA season, Aldridge averaged 17.3 points and just 7.3 rebounds. However, the team also featured big man Pau Gasol in the lineup, helping Aldridge shoulder the load. Even so, Aldridge’s numbers were down from two of his best seasons he played for the Trail Blazers. One of those was in the 2013-14 season when he averaged 23.2 points and 11.1 rebounds along with about one block per game. Earl Watson was there for that particular campaign.
With that said, it should be an interesting season ahead for LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs. As of this report, Vegas Insider lists San Antonio as a 12 to 1 favorite to win the 2016-18 NBA Finals. A lot of that is going to hinge on LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, the latter of whom is returning from injury and predicted by Zach Lowe to win this year’s NBA MVP Award.
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