LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs: Stay Together for the Kids

LaMarcus Aldridge signed a 3-year, $72.3 million contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. In doing so, both Aldridge and the Spurs have shown that, while the marriage isn't perfect, it is necessary. In two seasons with San Antonio, Aldridge has sported averages of 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds.

In a time where the Western Conference is as stacked as ever, the Spurs understand that keeping continuity is the only way to survive, particularly for them. The offseason saw star after star change teams, and many moved westward. While the team has mega-star Kawhi Leonard, it lacks the punch of some of the other top teams in the West. An aging, oft-injured Tony Parker and the evergreen Manu Ginobili can only contribute so much at this stage of their careers. These uncertainties have driven San Antonio to perhaps overpaying and over-extending the contracts of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, committing nearly $40 million annually to the pair.

Last season, the Spurs made Aldridge available for trade and the talk of the town was that the 10-year big man wanted a bigger role in the Spurs' offense. The Spurs, being the efficiency machine that they are, play a team-based system where the open man takes the shot. Aldridge, traditionally, is an iso-post player with an array of spins and fades, which is a stark contrast to the Spursian way. This became glaringly evident in the playoffs while Kawhi Leonard was injured, as Aldridge shot just 38% from the field against the Warriors in those games.

So, why did these two parties agree to an extension? For Aldridge, it seems unlikely that he would get this money elsewhere. Stylistically, his kind is beginning to fade. Mid-range shooting is being replaced with 3-point shooting, and post moves are being replaced with screen-and-roll or off-the-dribble plays. In the ever-evolving NBA, Aldridge is becoming the exception, not the rule. But beyond that, Aldridge has a chance to compete for one of the most well-run organizations in the league and play next to Kawhi Leonard. The thing about playing with someone of Leonard's caliber is that an immense amount of pressure is lifted off of Aldridge because of "The Klaw". If Aldridge were to play for someone like the Phoenix Suns (a perennially rumored destination of his), he would be the focal point of a bad team. Ten years into his career, it seems unlikely that Aldridge would join a young team that is unlikely to make the playoffs.

For the Spurs, bringing back a core group of veterans to pair with Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich is paramount to their success. If the Spurs were to trade Aldridge, they would be bringing in new pieces, likely of lesser talent, and rebuilding chemistry for a team that already could be getting pushed out of the top tier of the Western Conference. While the Spurs may be watching other teams get better around them, they've decided to control what they can control; continuity. It seems that each year, the Spurs are the team that should 'fall off' (I, myself, am guilty of it in this very article), and every year Gregg Popovich finds a new way to recreate success. A huge part of that recreation is due to continuity; the Spurs have nine players that were either drafted by the team or have been there at least five years.

At this point in time, neither the Spurs nor LaMarcus Aldridge are prepared to rebuild. The Spurs still have a top five player in Kawhi, and Aldridge has the opportunity to play for a contending team. It makes the most sense for both parties to try and make it work. While there are challenges between them, the Spurs would be hard-pressed to replace Aldridge, and he would have equal trouble finding a role on a team with the potential that the Spurs have.

The only road forward is to stay together for the kids.

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