The San Antonio Spurs built one of the most successful franchises in American sports history through chemistry, continuity, and the belief that no one player is bigger than the team. This level of selflessness is rare in pro sports, but it helped the Spurs become the standard by which all NBA organizations are measured. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear everyone is buying into that way of thinking.
In a recent list of predictions for the upcoming 2016–17 season, ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted that it wouldn’t surprise him if power forward LaMarcus Aldridge comes up in trade discussions. While we don’t usually put as much stock in “predictions,” we took this a bit more seriously when ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan echoed a similar sentiment. During an appearance on CSNNE.com’s Early Edition, MacMullan had this to say about the precarious situation in San Antonio: “For instance, sources were telling me the other day that LaMarcus Aldridge may not even finish the year with the Spurs. That experiment hasn’t quite worked out the way they hoped.”
At this point in time, no definitive evidence suggests Aldridge and the Spurs are heading toward a divorce. However, if this becomes the case, plenty of teams would jump at the chance to add a player of his considerable talents. In our opinion, these five landing spots make the most sense.
1. Atlanta Hawks
The offseason signing of Dwight Howard should help the Atlanta Hawks remain in contention in the Eastern Conference. But it’s not exactly enough to move the needle. After all, he’s a 30-year-old center who’s been in decline the past few seasons, and the Hawks are a club coming off their second consecutive postseason sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. This team needs more if it wants to get out of the East. Aldridge could be the missing piece.
The Hawks tried — and failed — to move power forward Paul Millsap this past offseason. However, he’s exactly the sort of player who might entice the Spurs to move on from their own disgruntled (supposedly) All-Star. In Aldridge, the Hawks would get an upgrade at the four-spot to complement Howard. The former Texas Longhorn would get to the opportunity to be a team’s first option on the offensive end of the floor; something he seems to crave. This is what we call a “win-win.”
2. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are a team on the rise, as evidenced by their offseason signing of All-Star center Al Horford. Everyone should take them seriously in the Eastern Conference. However, if we’re completely honest, we don’t think this single move makes them good enough to challenge the Cavs.
Luckily for the C’s, Danny Ainge is stockpiling valuable assets and just waiting for the right moment to cash them in. A “Godfather-like” offer to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Aldridge might be exactly what Boston needs to take this franchise to the next level. The Celtics have youth at the guard position and an excellent coach in Brad Stevens, but Horford — the team’s real prize — is already 30 years old, which gives them a limited window. It’s safe to say this franchise has no time to wait.
3. Chicago Bulls
We don’t know how the Chicago Bulls will fare with the core of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler. Until this group takes the floor together in the regular season, no one does. But here’s what we do know: The Bulls selected Aldridge with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft and then traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for LSU’s Tyrus Thomas (who went fourth overall in the same draft). This move, to this day, must hurt. Now, the organization has a chance to right a wrong and improve in the process. We think it’s a no-brainer, and we’re not alone.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers attempted to sign Aldridge prior to the start of the 2015–16 season, but things didn’t exactly go as planned. If the team is still interested in bringing the All-Star power forward to Hollywood, here’s a chance for a do-over. While the Lakers won’t be “Showtime” this season, we do think young point guard D’Angelo Russell will have a breakout year in new coach Luke Walton’s system, while rookie Brandon Ingram has the talent to be a special player. Normally, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. If they play their cards right, the Lakers may get a second.
5. Phoenix Suns
Aldridge may have signed with the San Antonio Spurs, but it wasn’t exactly a slam-dunk decision. According to the power forward, he was actually “very close” to signing with the Phoenix Suns. If the reports are true, and there is trouble in paradise (yes, we are calling San Antonio “paradise” in this particular situation), maybe Aldridge gets to go to the other team that was high on his list. Given Devin Booker’s (above left) quick ascension to superstardom, we could think of worse places to call home.