Citing several reasons, All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is expected to leave the Portland Trail Blazers via free agency this summer. According to ESPN, Aldridge doesn’t believe Portland can sign top free agents to bolster the squad, feels unappreciated by the organization, and essentially wants to live somewhere else.
"He's gone," an anonymous source close to Aldridge told ESPN. "There's a 99.9 percent chance that he's out of Portland."
Now a total of five teams have emerged with the chance to land one of the league’s best low-post and all-around forwards: the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, and San Antonio Spurs.
As of now, the Lakers, Mavs, and Spurs appear to be in the lead.
While L.A. tries to iron out a trade for Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, it also has the required salary cap space to offer Aldridge a four-year maximum level deal and boasts one of the top markets in the league to lure the kind of talent Aldridge desires to play with.
Much of the Lakers' chances of landing Aldridge rest on what they do with the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday night’s draft. The Kings reportedly at least want the pick and potentially forward Julius Randle and point guard Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers are reluctant to deal either player.
The possibility of teaming up with Kobe Bryant, as well as Cousins in the frontcourt, might be just enough to sway Aldridge.
Otherwise, L.A. could use the selection and take either Duke center Jahlil Okafor or Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell.
Taking either prospect certainly won’t eat into the Lakers considerable cap space, but they would then pitch Aldridge a young roster that will need time to develop before it can seriously contend in the Western Conference. Even with Bryant on the roster.
The Lakers are also one of several speculated destinations for power forward Kevin Love, and landing Aldridge might hinder their chances of landing the former All-Star. Love opted-out of his current deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, and like Aldridge is one of the most coveted free agents on the market this summer.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard said during a SportsCenter segment earlier today that San Antonio is No. 1 on Aldridge’s list.
“Now the Spurs have to do some maneuvering to be able to offer him a max deal and still keep their guys like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and others,” he said. “But the Spurs are No. 1 on his list, I'm told. But the Lakers are there."
Aldridge also reportedly admires San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, and the Spurs also boast budding star Kawhi Leonard and have won claimed five titles in the last 16 years. It certainly also helps that Aldridge grew up and played high school and college basketball in Texas.
Yet with Duncan and Ginobili’s futures still up in the air, Aldridge might find L.A. to be the better long-term prospect. The Lakers are also attempting to woo veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, one of the league’s best floor generals when healthy and motivated.
Rondo’s L.A. fate also hinges on what happens with the No. 2 pick. If Russell is the selection the Lakers might not be in need of a point guard.
Broussard also stressed that the Lakers are right there with San Antonio, and that L.A. “feels good” about its chances.