Following his most successful year with the San Antonio Spurs to date, LaMarcus Aldridge is primed to be the heart and soul of this team going forward.
No one knows exactly what vision of the team Popovich sold LaMarcus Aldridge back in July of 2015 when he signed with the San Antonio Spurs, but with an aging core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, and the sky-high potential but relative youth of Kawhi Leonard, it almost assuredly featured Aldridge as the face of the franchise.
Things took a turn as Leonard developed into one of the league’s premiere players and Aldridge faced significant growing pains in his early seasons with the team.
But the tides turned again last summer when, seemingly overnight, trade rumors around the forward turned into a four-year contract and a commitment from coach Gregg Popovich to let LaMarcus Aldridge be LaMarcus Aldridge.
That reassurance and the opportunity presented by Leonard’s injury last year spurred Aldridge to his best season yet in San Antonio where he averaged 23.1 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks last season.
Now, with Kawhi Leonard out of the picture, LaMarcus Aldridge is unquestionably the man in San Antonio.
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In exchange for Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs brought in DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl from the Toronto Raptors. Although DeRozan is undoubtedly an all-star caliber player, Aldridge’s seniority and newfound comfort in the Spurs system makes him the de-facto ringleader of San Antonio’s new era.
Analysts, writers, and fans have questioned Aldridge’s ability to mesh with DeRozan given the pair’s affinity for mid-range jumpers, which is fair. But the offense should be more fluid this year with the addition of DeRozan and sharpshooter Marco Belinelli, which will benefit Aldridge.
DeRozan and Aldridge will have to share touches, but I expect Aldridge to be just as dominant as his All-NBA effort last season.
While Aldridge struggled on offense his first two years in San Antonio, he showed great improvement year after year on the defensive end of the floor and evolved into the perfect rim protector in the Spurs system last year.
He doesn’t have the agility to keep up with faster players on the perimeter, but he should continue to thrive as the stopper when the Spurs’ perimeter defense forces shooters inside.
On the offensive end of the floor, Aldridge has gotten more and more comfortable shooting three-pointers and looked surprisingly good firing from deep in spurts last year.
Aldridge will never be a sharpshooter by nature, but if he can capitalize on open looks when they’re given to him and drag defenders to the arc, he can open the lane for cutters and open up the floor for an offense many fear will be inherently constricted.
In short: it’s LaMarcus Aldridge’s time to shine.
As one of the most experienced members of a team with significantly more turnover than usual, Aldridge has a responsibility to bring stability to the ship.
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Last year, Aldridge was unexpectedly thrust into the workhorse role in the team’s desperate effort to keep its playoff streak alive.
This year, however, the Spurs are planning around him.
Even with the addition of DeRozan and the continued development of Murray, the Spurs will go as LaMarcus Aldridge goes, and it looks like he’s primed for another monster season.