LaMarcus Aldridge is the biggest free agent in the NBA, and he’ll be the subject of the league's largest bidding war this summer. With LeBron James all but guaranteed to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kevin Love also likely to stay with the Eastern Conference champs, several teams are making their pursuit of the Portland Trail Blazers’ big man their top priority.
Aldridge isn’t expected to return to Portland, and the All-Star has already scheduled meetings with seven teams. While unlikely destinations like the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors will meet with Aldridge, two other organizations have emerged as the favorites in the Aldridge Sweepstakes.
For weeks, the San Antonio Spurs have been viewed by many as the most likely landing spot for Aldridge. The 29-year-old is a Texas native, and signing with the Spurs might give him his best chance to win a championship. The two sides will meet on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.
According to Yahoo Sports, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich will be a part of the meeting, though the Spurs still have some work to do before they can offer Aldridge a max contract. San Antonio would have to shed some salary, possibly losing key role players like Danny Green and Tiago Splitter. Both Duncan and Manu Ginobili are free agents, and while they aren’t expected to sign elsewhere, retirement for both could be looming.
Even though they are coming off their worst season in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers have emerged as a serious contender to sign Aldridge. A report by Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times says L.A. has become Aldridge’s most likely destination.
Heard that LaMarcus Aldridge was leaning toward Lakers, a sign that their brand is not only back but never went away despite appearances.
â€” Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) June 30, 2015
There are a few reasons why the possibility of playing for the Lakers might excite Aldridge. Other than Kobe Bryant, the team isn’t paying big money to any player next year, leaving them with a lot of salary cap space and flexibility. Los Angeles also has good, young talent in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
Aldridge has consistently been one of the NBA’s best power forwards over the last five years. He’s been selected to four consecutive All-Star teams, averaging at least 21 points and eight rebounds in each season since 2010-2011. This past year, he averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, shooting a career-best from three-point range with 37 makes on 35.2 percent shooting.
The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks will also meet with Aldridge. Considering Houston reached the conference finals, the Rockets would give Aldridge a chance to win a title, though they need to do some maneuvering in order to free up more cap space. Dirk Nowitzki has indicated that he’s willing to let Aldridge be the team’s No.1 option on offense, and Dallas is Aldridge's hometown.
The Phoenix Suns will be among the first teams to meet with Aldridge. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has said the team will be aggressive in free agency, but Phoenix is not among the favorites to land Aldridge.