Regardless of what happens in these playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs might look very different next season. Re-signing Kawhi Leonard to a max contract is a priority, but so is bringing LaMarcus Aldridge over from the Portland Trail Blazers.
Leonard still doesn’t have an All-Star appearance after four seasons in the league, but he is a FInals MVP and most recently selected to be the Defensive player of the year. Maybe not a superstar in behavior, but very few small forwards in the league are better. From a nice, useful role player, he has almost transformed himself into the future of the franchise once the era of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan ends, although we’ve been saying it for years.
Leonard will be a free agents (restricted at the end of this season) and although the Spurs have over re-signings to make (Tim Duncan, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli and others), keeping Leonard is as important as keeping Duncan on the team. Once you get past sentimentality, it’s even more important. Duncan can keep doing this forever.
Leonard is going to take a max contract to keep, and the Spurs are probably going to work fast and extend his deal and not wait for someone to put up an offer sheet he’s already going to match. They have plenty of cap space available for next season (We don’t know what the cap limit is going to be), with only $33 million committed to staying players. They can give Leonard the max extension and go after a top free agent, like Aldridge.
Before this season began, the Blazers’ power forward was walking about staying until the very end in Portland, becoming the team’s all-time greatest. But things change. Great options out there, and the upcoming failure to get through the first round of the playoff, even if it was because of a Wesley Matthews injury more than anything else.
More and more voices from Portland, be it rumors from reporters or players speaking anonymously, suggest that the chances of Aldridge staying after already playing there for nine years, are slim at best. Sure, they can offer him more money and years than anyone, which they intend to do, but maybe Aldridge wants an easier, more comfortable, and more experienced route to take him towards an NBA title, something he has never come really close to getting in Portland.