Report: Spurs will target Aldridge after re-signing Leonard this summer
The baton is in the process of being passed from the Tim Duncan era San Antonio Spurs to the Kawhi Leonard era Spurs.
With Leonard earning NBA Finals MVP, an NBA championship and Defensive Player of the Year honors all in the last calendar year, Saturday's reports that the Spurs will work quickly to lock him up on a maximum contract this summer is not in the least surprising. Leonard is the ultimate Spurs creation, a hard-working, dedicated, intelligent basketball junkie who craves winning over attention.
What's less clear than Leonard's future with the team is what the Leonard-era Spurs may look like. Duncan turned 39 years old on Saturday, and he and 37-year-old Manu Ginobili are free agents after the season and likely retirement candidates. Head coach Gregg Popovich will probably move on at some point, too, and his assumed predecessor, Mike Budenholzer, is now with the Atlanta Hawks. There are question marks, but also serious opportunities to carry this dynasty over into a third decade.
With 18 consecutive years of franchise success and an elite two-way player in Leonard - plus the small benefit of a friendly Texas income tax system - the Spurs could be positioned to land Leonard a tag-team partner for the next few years via free agency, something they've never really done before.
LaMarcus Aldridge, the Texas-born Portland Trail Blazers star, could be that first marquee signing.
While Aldridge has said publicly that he wants to be the best Blazer ever, there's reportedly growing concern that he could leave, lured by either the Spurs or his hometown Dallas Mavericks. While the status of Duncan and Ginobili affects things to a degree, if one or both were to retire, the Spurs could be aggressive in pursuing Aldridge.
The Spurs will offer Leonard a full maximum contract extension, get a commitment and turn themselves toward prying Aldridge back to his Texas roots.
It is a testament to the regime of Portland general manager Neil Olshey, the commitment of owner Paul Allen, that the most credible threat to lose Aldridge comes out of San Antonio, the best franchise in sports. For everything Aldridge has been doing lately to sell people that he wants out of Portland, make no mistake: His forever changing moods will shift again and again, because that's Aldridge's nature. Portland can still pay Aldridge the most money, pitch him on Olshey's franchise-building acumen and the chance to be remembered as the greatest Blazer ever.
Aldridge has spent his entire nine-year career with Portland, making four All-Star teams and averaging 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and one block while shooting 48.5 percent. He's one of the deadliest mid-range shooting big men in basketball and is versatile enough defensively to work in most any scheme.
The on-court fit is obvious, so it will be a matter of convincing Aldridge that the additional year and money Portland can offer is a worthy trade-off for the organizational fit.
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