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San Antonio Spurs: Is LaMarcus Aldridge worth his contract?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball during the preseason game against the Houston Rockets on October 13, 2017 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball during the preseason game against the Houston Rockets on October 13, 2017 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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LaMarcus Aldridge signed a three-year, $72.3 million contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs. Despite conflicting reports regarding his happiness in San Antonio, Aldridge has committed to Coach Popovich and the Spurs’ culture.

While his skill set and well-roundedness made him a great addition on paper, San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge has struggled since joining the team in 2015. He was asked to play a more traditional big man role for Popovich instead of his usual ‘post-and-pop’ playstyle.

In two season with the Spurs, Aldridge has averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. In addition, he’s shot an average of 49.5 percent from the field and has averaged 1.2 blocks per contest.

Many fans have called for Aldridge to be traded or let go in free agency during his short tenure with the team. In the 2016-2017 NBA season, Aldridge averaged his lowest scoring and rebounding totals per game since his rookie year with 17.3 and 7.3 respectively.

Fortunately for Spurs fans, Aldridge has seemingly turned over a new leaf. Recent reports indicate that the 11-year veteran has worked through his issues with the help of Popovich and is committed to success in San Antonio.

Is he worth the money?

Gauging NBA contracts is no easy task considering the fluctuating market for player salaries and CBA revenue. At an average of $24 million annually, Aldridge’s contract could be favorable for San Antonio.

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Veteran power forward Paul Millsap signed a $90 million contract lasting three years with the Denver Nuggets in June. Millsap, a four-time All-Star, averaged similar numbers to Aldridge in 2017 and earned significantly more money this summer. Wizards’ forward Otto Porter also earned a four-year, $104 million contract extension after averaging just 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season.

With the current state of the NBA, Aldridge isn’t making an outrageous amount of money for his output.

And more importantly, he’s ready to transition into the player that San Antonio needs. He’s become more aggressive in the paint and has taken strides as an interior defender in his two years with the Spurs. With the help of guards Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray, Aldridge’s pick-and-roll play has become a huge asset throughout the preseason.

From #TheJump: Was LaMarcus Aldridge's heart-to-heart with Gregg Popovich something, nothing or everything? pic.twitter.com/mk1Fc6iHWr

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 7, 2017

Of all factors and changes, Aldridge has remained a consistently great post scorer. His mid-range jump shot ranks among the deadliest for big men and his craftiness on the block is unwavered. His fadeaway jump shot and high shot-release are critical tools in San Antonio’s offense.

Will he truly live up to his contract? Only time will tell, but if his commitment is true then he’ll have no problem putting up All-Star numbers once again.

How does he prove his worth?

With Kawhi Leonard sidelined with a quad injury, Aldridge has become the primary scorer for San Antonio to start the season. The Spurs will look to Aldridge as a leader and veteran presence on the court and in the locker room.

Aldridge on signing his contract extension #Spurs pic.twitter.com/tIEL3pYr31

— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) October 17, 2017

He’ll need to prove himself worthy of his new contract and will certainly produce numbers. San Antonio will look to him as a high-usage scorer and efficient three-point scorer in Leonard’s absence.

Following the departure of center Dewayne Dedmon, Aldridge will need to be a lockdown interior defender for San Antonio. With the aid of veteran big man Pau Gasol, Aldridge will be responsible for anchoring the squad’s defense.

He finished his 2016-2017 campaign with a defensive rating of 104.2, which tied Robert Covington for eighteenth best in the NBA.

The most important factor in Aldridge in earning his contract is effort. If he can perform to the best of his ability and follow the guidelines set for him by Popovich, he’ll have a fantastic season and earn his extension. His commitment to the Spurs has been obvious as of late, even noting that he’d like to end his career with the team.

Next: Spurs: Rudy Gay’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year pursuit

This season is where he must distinguish himself as an All-Time Spurs Great, and not just a great player who spent time with the organization.

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