San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge, Power Forward (2015-Present)
Since their playoff streak began with the arrival of Tim Duncan in 1997, the San Antonio Spurs have rarely gone after for big-name free agents. Like any team, they signed less heralded players to fill in the gaps, but they’ve never hunted superstars in part because they’ve never seemed to need them.
It was for this reason their pursuit and ultimate signing of LaMarcus Aldridge in the 2015 offseason caught many off-guard. A four-time NBA All-Star with the Portland Trail Blazers, Aldridge had averaged 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game up in Portland on a steady diet of the isolation sets Gregg Popovich so adamantly detests.
Despite their differences, the Spurs knew the Duncan era would soon be coming to an end. Kawhi Leonard had not yet fully broken out into superstardom and San Antonio needed someone to take reign of the torch.
Aldridge’s first two seasons with the Spurs were not without a few bumps. They won 67 and 61 games, but it was clear the former ball-dominant forward was having trouble making sacrifices, so much so that he asked for a trade in the summer of 2017.
Both he and Popovich would come to a middle ground, and it’s allowed San Antonio to see tremendous returns on its investment. Aldridge has averaged 22.2 and 8.8 rebounds per game in the two years since, numbers more in line with his Trail Blazer days that have helped keep the Spurs in postseason contention.
A model of consistency, the Spurs have undergone a number of drastic changes over the last few years. The Big Three era reached its endpoint and Kawhi was traded last summer. What’s helped keep them afloat and what will likely continue to do so is the play of Aldridge, whose importance in San Antonio was known by the organization as he signed on the dotted line.