Rumors about LaMarcus Aldridge potentially leaving Portland have been surfacing for a while. After a teammate said he believed there was a 50-50 chance that Aldridge could leave, ESPN's Marc Stein reports that two Texas teams, the Spurs and Mavericks, believe they have a shot to get him.
Before the season Aldridge said in an interview that he wanted to re-sign and become the best Blazer of all time. Portland can offer him more money than anyone else, as well as the possibility to be in the playoffs year in and year out. That might not be enough for him, as the Trail Blazers have not been able to make the conference finals in his time there and look on their way to an early postseason exit after losing to the Grizzlies, 97-82, on Wednesday.
Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez are also becoming free agents, and if even one of them leaves, Portland would have to replace them with a quality piece or take a step back as a potential contender. There are a lot of variables at play, but it's looking more and more like Aldridge will at least listen to offers, which would make him one of the most sought-after free agents in the market.
The Mavericks and Spurs are good destinations. San Antonio could carve up enough cap room for a maximum contract without completely gutting its roster if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire. Dallas could build a team around Aldridge with the cap flexibility they will have after this season.
So let's take a closer look at this potential return to Texas for the Dallas native.
Why it makes sense
Rumors about Aldridge returning to his home state have been around for a long time. He reportedly believed the city of Portland was too small for him and wanted to play in a bigger market. Dallas fits the bill. The other reason he was said to want out was because the Trail Blazers couldn't put a competitive team around him after injuries derailed the careers of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. The Spurs have the best track record of success in the league in the past 20 years.
The Mavericks can offer him the chance to play next to Dirk Nowitzki and another free agent, as they will likely have a lot of cap room. The year after next, the cap is supposed to explode, so the Mavericks could add yet another piece. Then Dirk Nowitzki's and Chandler Parsons' contracts expire and would allow Dallas to rebuild its entire roster around Aldridge. Mark Cuban's willingness to spend and the Mavericks' ability to attract free agents could be huge selling points. Few teams can offer so much future flexibility while also offering the chance to make the playoffs in the short term. If the choice is between the Knicks or Lakers and the Mavericks, choosing Dallas seems like a no-brainer.
The Spurs don't have a typical big-market allure, but they could offer Aldridge the chance to join Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard as the third piece of an established core and would have Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills and potentially Danny Green on the roster as well. Slotting Aldridge in Duncan's spot in the starting lineup would mean instant contention as well as a chance to play next to one of the league's best young talents in Leonard and its best coach in Gregg Popovich. The fit would be perfect, as Aldridge would not have to defend centers. With Leonard in tow, the future would look promising.
Why it doesn't make sense
Aldridge is 29 years old and his next contract could be his last big one. He might be tempted to go for the biggest amount of money possible, as Carmelo Anthony did in New York, especially considering he has not made much from endorsements. The Blazers can offer that. If they retain all of their free agents, Portland will be a playoff team for the foreseeable future. All thing considered, Aldridge is in a good situation already.
Nowitzki is the Mavericks' starting power forward and that will likely remain the case even with his eroding skills. You don't send living legends to the bench. That means Aldridge would be slotted at center if he comes to Dallas. He can play there, but the grind of doing so for an entire season might take its toll and that team will likely struggle on defense. Unless the Mavericks already have another free agent committed to sign along with Aldridge, a move to Dallas doesn't move the needle in the short term as far as contending goes. Who knows what the future will bring?
The Spurs make more sense in terms of on-court fit, but if Aldridge wants to raise his public profile as it was reported, San Antonio is not the place for him. The Spurs love flying under the radar and Leonard is one of the quietest stars in the league. They don't promote their players for awards and don't always play along with the national media. It would be really hard for Aldridge to build his brand under those circumstances.
The Spurs would also have to make some sacrifices to carve out room for a maximum contract. One of Green, Boris Diaw or Splitter would have to be let go or traded, which would weaken their roster for the immediate future.
Likelihood of happening: 4/10
If Aldridge indeed leaves Portland, him landing with one of the Spurs or Mavericks makes much more sense than him signing with the Lakers, Knicks or any other team with cap space. There's a reason there have been persistent rumors about Aldridge wanting to go home, and Texas not having an income tax would make leaving millions on the table to make a move easier to swallow.
Aldridge staying with the Trail Blazers remains the most likely scenario, but if he leaves, one of the Texas teams will likely get him.