We briefly interrupt out playoffs coverage to report that the Spurs are "at or near the top" of LaMarcus Aldridge's list of team's he'd consider leaving Portland to sign with, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
The Spurs have been linked to Aldridge for a while, as the Dallas native seems to favor a return to Texas and the interest appears to be mutual. That could change if the Cavaliers can engineer a sign-and-trade for him, according to Stein, but Kevin Love would have to be on the move for that to happen.
It's rare to see the Spurs mentioned in this type of rumors, especially when the season is still undergoing, so let's take a closer look at the report.
Why it makes sense
If Aldridge is looking for the right fit in free agency, it's hard to beat the Spurs. We are assuming Tim Duncan has retired (or has been magnanimous enough to be renounced and then brought back using the room exception) and Manu Ginobili is gone. The Spurs could have max room by finding a taker for Boris Diaw or Tiago Splitter if they need to. That takes cares of Aldridge's salary, while Texas' lack of income tax would lessen the effect of taking less money to leave Portland.
Aldridge would then take the starting power forward spot next to Parker, Green (if he's re-signed), Leonard and or/Splitter. He's not the defender Duncan is but he's no slouch, so that team's a contender with Patty Mills, Boris Diaw/Tiago Splitter, and whatever Kyle Anderson is. It would not be the deepest of teams but the front office always seems to figure out how to round out the roster for cheap. Even if they fail, that core should be enough to get homecourt in the West, considering how durable Aldridge is.
The real reason it makes sense for Aldridge, however, is because he could contend for years. Damian Lillard is a year older than Kawhi Leonard and unless he suddenly figures out how to defend with his slight frame, he's closer to peaking as a player. Parker would slide to a secondary role while Leonard and Aldridge take over and when his contract is up and the cap is high, the Spurs could add another star. San Antonio hasn't been a big free agent destination in the past but if Leonard's career continues in this trajectory and Aldridge is in tow, there's reason to think that can change.
Why it doesn't make sense
While the on-court fit is perfect, off the court things might not be rosy. Aldridge reportedly wanted to play in a big market and raise his profile. The Spurs are the worst place to do that. Kawhi Leonard has already been anointed the face of the franchise by Pop, so even if Aldridge leads the team in points, he will have competition for status just like in Portland. If there's anyway he can go to LA or New York and, if not contend, then at lest compete, he should do that if his brand is important.
The Spurs might also take a step back when Duncan leaves. In their effort to nab Aldridge the Spurs would destroy their depth. They have been able to find bargains in the past but if they don't and Anderson doesn't make a leap, they could have the exact same type of seven-man rotation Aldridge is leaving behind in Portland. That's not a problem when you have a couple of All-NBA players next to you but can the Spurs assure him that he will? What if Parker never plays at an elite level again? What if Leonard never makes another leap?
If he's facing those doubts, then why make a change at all? He can easily stay in Portland, where the fanbase will be grateful, hope they can get the right supporting cast next to him and Lillard and enjoy the extra money. All of these rumors are based on Aldridge leaving but he could simply survey his options and decide he's good where he is, especially now that C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard are showing signs of being productive. LaMarrcus is great but changing everything about his life and leaving money on the table without an assurance that he will contend would be a tough decision to make, considering he's not in a bad position.
Chances of happening: 4/10
Aldridge's own teammates are putting the odds of him staying with the Blazers at 50/50 and the Spurs seem to be the front-runners for his services. Still, even if he leaves Portland, he will have plenty of options to choose from. It looks like there's a chance San Antonio could make its biggest free agency signing in a long time, if not ever, but we are months ago from knowing anything for sure.