With the San Antonio Spurs guaranteeing All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract through next season, the future of the team is becoming clearer.
The 2019-20 regular season provides the San Antonio Spurs with a fresh start after overcoming a handful of obstacles in the last two years. Losing breakout candidate Dejounte Murray just before the start of the regular season devastated a team that would’ve hugely benefitted from his presence.
They had a learning curve to overcome after the trade for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl, and yet the Spurs managed to exceed expectations by forcing Game Seven against the No. 2 seed in the postseason. This paved the way for a resurgent offseason in which R.C. Buford and Brian Wright established the future of this team while securing its present.
With the front office guaranteeing LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract for the 2020-21 season, they’re signaling their confidence in this group’s ability to compete in the playoffs and reestablish themselves as a threat to reach the Conference Finals.
It should’ve been expected that Aldridge would age gracefully when considering the similar nature of his play style. Few players are as refined on the low block as the 34-year-old. His jump shooting is reliable from anywhere inside the three-point line and potentially beyond, considering he took and made multiple triples through the preseason and cashed in on his only attempt in the season opener against New York.
Aldridge looked spry opening up the year with 22 points, eight boards and two blocks in a team-high 35 minutes. Since it was the season opener, DeRozan and Aldridge played some extra minutes in garbage time to show off for the crowd and keep their lead steady, but that playing time could come down once Gregg Popovich is more comfortable with his bench pieces.
Guaranteeing Aldridge’s return to the lineup says a lot about how this group feels about their chances this year and that confidence could be the key to their success.
Next: Providing security for both parties
Assuring Aldridge’s payout provides both parties with security
A general sense of security can be very important to an individual’s mindset and by guaranteeing LaMarcus Aldridge’s money for next season, the Spurs can assure that Aldridge will have his focus on basketball. With a familial environment engrained in the organization, the Spurs are sending a message that Aldridge is a crucial member of this team beyond basketball.
During his time as a Spur, Aldridge’s altruistic attitude has been well documented. His many charitable actions have widely benefitted many communities in San Antonio and as a result, Aldridge is beloved throughout the city.
It’s been alluded to on multiple occasions that Aldridge would eventually like to return to Portland, where he spent the first nine seasons of his career. He’ll hit the free agent market at 36, but could potentially earn himself another solid contract if he continues to play as well as he has in the past two seasons. However, there’s a two-year window for the Spurs to compete with him before having to worry about that.
This also assured that the Spurs have a competitive roster for next season. Only three rotation players hit free agency this summer: Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli and Poeltl, who will more than likely receive a qualifying offer to become a restricted free agent.
Belinelli’s future is uncertain and letting him walk would open up an additional $5 million to toy with, but Forbes could command a sizeable contract if he keeps playing the way he has.
Of the 2020 free agency class, the best players to hit the market will be DeRozan and Pistons center Andre Drummond; assuming that Anthony Davis remains a Laker. As a result, teams are going to have some cash to spend and Aldridge might get a lucrative offer past of the Spurs’ price range that would lure him away.
By securing their marquee power forward for next season, the organization is making sure they have stability heading into next year, even if DeRozan leaves for a larger payout.
Next: Expecting growth from last season
Expecting growth from last season
Instead of seeming hesitant about the roster, the Spurs’ organization is showing that it’s all-in on what they’re building. A commitment of $24 million is huge – they feel that Aldridge has earned his money and is prepared to lead this team through the next two seasons. As a result, the Spurs will look to improve upon the seventh-place finish they’ve been stuck in over the last two seasons.
Historically, San Antonio is exceptionally better when holding home court advantage. In order to attain that advantage for the postseason, they need to take care of business against the lesser competition of the league and play as a cohesive unit as the year progresses. Aldridge’s presence is a foundational aspect of the offense under Popovich’s methodical coaching and will continue to pay dividends as the year progresses.
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Shooting threes is a huge development in Aldridge’s evolution. He’s shown signs of extended range throughout his career and has seemed more comfortable letting threes fly as of this preseason. If this becomes a consistent influx for the 7-time All-Star, the veteran could earn his eighth in the near future.
One aspect of Aldridge’s growth that’s stood out since becoming a Spur has been his ability to continue learning and adapting.
Although his scoring will always come primarily from calculated plays in the paint, soft touch in the post and an array of mid-range jumpers , Aldridge is also willing to keep pushing himself in areas where he used to struggle like defense, passing and rim protection. Without actively trying to impose himself on those around him, Aldridge’s his exemplary attitude provides an excellent model of professionalism and dedication for the youth playing below him on the depth chart.
There’s little doubt that Aldridge will continue to warrant his contract guarantee by working hard and leading the team to victory.