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LaMarcus Aldridge expected to leave Portland; Spurs and Lakers top list of destinations

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's Marc Stein and Chris Broussard put out a story that LaMarcus Aldridge is most likely leaving the Trail Blazers and will enter free agency.

LaMarcus Aldridge is not expected to re-sign with the Portland Trail Blazers, several people close to the All-Star forward told ESPN's Chris Broussard.

And Wednesday's trade of forward Nicolas Batum was an indication, league sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein, of Portland's growing belief that Aldridge is poised to leave in free agency.

"He's gone," a source close to Aldridge said. "There's a 99.9 percent chance that he's out of Portland."

The sources listed several reasons Aldridge is expected to leave the Blazers, for whom he has played since entering the league in 2006. They said that he doesn't believe the Blazers can attract top free agents to improve the team, that he feels somewhat underappreciated by the organization and that he simply is looking for a new environment to live in.

"He has tons of respect for coach [Gregg] Popovich," a source told ESPN. "And he thinks highly of their organization and front office." And according to Marc Stein, the Spurs are his number one choice.

The Spurs will have to be creative to make cap room to sign the big man, but Mike Monroe of the Express-News thinks that a deal with Duncan may be in the works.

There are several NBA player personnel executives who believe the Spurs will offer Duncan a two-year contract that begins between $6 million and $7 million, with a partial guarantee and a player option in the second season.

If Duncan doesn't exercise the option, he gets, say, 50 percent of that season's salary. In effect, his salary for next season would remain over $10 million, the partially guaranteed portion of the second season's salary remaining on the Spurs team salary after the cap explodes with the NBA's new TV money kicking in for 2016-17.

"You can call it a ‘wink-wink' deal if you want to," an Eastern Conference team executive said. "It's what they did with (Antonio) McDyess, so why not for Duncan?"

Duncan's cap hold is slightly more than $15.5 million, so such a two-year deal would drop their team salary by more than $8 million.

The Spurs could also be looking to move Tiago Splitter and his $8.5M contract to clear more room and perhaps move up in the draft.

The rumor refused to die in the offseason, and now it looks like a real possibility that LaMarcus will be in Silver and Black in the 2015-16 season. Several teams will certainly make a run at Aldridge, including the Spurs, Lakers, Mavericks, Hawks, Rockets and perhaps even Cleveland. Free-agency starts on Wednesday, July 1st.

UPDATE:

According to Eric Gunderson, Aldridge has already informed the Blazers that he is leaving.

A Western Conference executive with knowledge of the Aldridge pursuit has told The Columbian that the free-agent has already informed the Blazers that he will not return to the Northwest.