So LaMarcus Aldridge can’t make up his mind. The experts all think he should just sign with the iconic Spurs and the rationale is sound, but it hasn’t happened yet. There must be a reason and it’s probably centered squarely in the Eastern Conference and all this waiting is creating (false?) hope and real issues for the teams waiting on him.
— NBA.com (@NBAcom) July 3, 2015
Aldridge wants to win and why shouldn’t he? As the best player on a middlin’ good team in Portland, he knows just how tough it is to get out of the West where even really good teams can get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. He’s a perfect fit in Houston beside Dwight Howard. Tim Duncan on the Spurs gives him a chance at the Finals next season. Even the Suns look very solid with him on the team. However, he knows, deep down, no one is promised anything in the West.
The Toronto Raptors presentation impressed Aldridge. President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is a polished GM. Head Coach Dwane Casey has excellent rapport with players and they undoubtedly laid out a plan that included Aldridge making the Raptors contenders in the East. That probably wasn’t what he expected, but playing in the East has to sound a whole lot better than spending the rest of his career battling in the Western Conference.
However, the Raptors spent the bulk of their available salary cap space on DeMarre Carroll and while that move takes them a step closer to contention, now they would have to dump salary or do a sign-and-trade with Portland to get Aldridge a max deal. The only good part of that situation is Portland might just do it to keep him out of the Western Conference.
Somewhat confirming Aldridge’s fascination with heading East was his dinner with Pat Riley of the HEAT. After re-committing to Dwyane Wade, the Heat have no cap space and almost no possibility of signing Aldridge, but Miami is a market that is easier to envision a star like Aldridge wanting to go to. It just isn’t going to happen this year.
All this waiting has started to create real issues for some teams. The Spurs have already gone all in by sending Tiago Splitter to the Hawks for nothing to make room for Aldridge. He’ll be missed if this doesn’t pan out. The Suns got all excited and sent Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to Detroit to bolster their claim of being dead serious in their pursuit of Aldridge. But, neither team is guaranteed anything and that cap space may not even bring back comparable talent to what they lost if Aldridge decides to go elsewhere. Even teams that haven’t gone all in could be missing out on other free agents that could help them.
It might look like Aldridge is just enjoying the free dinners and lavish praise being heaped on him by every team he graces with his presence, but there is more to it than that. This really is a huge decision that will likely determine his chances of ever sniffing the Finals. The problems created by taking his time aren’t his.