The Spurs inked LaMarcus Aldridge to a three-year, $72.3 million extension on Monday as they try to keep building around Kawhi Leonard. This move, more importantly, keeps the Spurs relevant when competing against the super-team Warriors for the next few seasons.
Aldridge, 32, will be under the Spurs’ control until the 2020-21 season. He will opt into his 2018-19 player option ($22.3 million) next season as the three-year extension will begin in the 2019-20 season.
Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge has reached agreement on a three-year, $72.3M contract extension, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 16, 2017
This move was fairly low-key for the Spurs, but pivotal if they want to stay relevant in the Western Conference. They will already be starting the season off without Leonard and Tony Parker. Leonard has experienced tendinopathy in his left quadriceps which has kept him sidelined all preseason.
Spurs coach Greg Popovich added that there is no timetable for his return which leaves a big question mark for the Spurs on both offense and defense. Last season was a break-out year offensively for Leonard. He is becoming just as dangerous on offense as he is on defense. This maturity in his game prompted comparisons to LeBron James. It’s a little bit of an unfair comparison for Leonard because James will go down as a top-five player all-time, but flattering nonetheless.
Had Leonard not suffered an ankle injury in last year’s Western Conference Finals, we may have seen a Spurs vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals instead of the third installment of Cavs vs. Warriors.
The Spurs were dominating the Warriors (that’s weird to say about the Warriors) through the first three quarters. But the Warriors rallied back, which was made easier with Leonard’s absence, to win that game and sweep the series.
Imagine if the Spurs could have had both Aldridge and Leonard healthy for that entire series. Both players see a spike in production when they reach the playoffs. Aldridge, in 60 playoff games, averages 20.6 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Leonard, in 87 playoff games, averages 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals.
There were times over the last two seasons where the Spurs and Aldridge didn’t see eye-to-eye. When he signed in 2015-16, Aldridge was looked at to be the top offensive weapon for the Spurs after they lost Tim Duncan to retirement.
But Leonard’s game developed rapidly, which forced some heads to butt in terms of how the offense would be run and who would be commanding it. What this extension means is that the coaching staff and players are now on the same page.
Lamarcus Aldridge says there was some frustration from his part for not being able to provide to the team last season how he wanted to pic.twitter.com/FPuo9Udyfj
— Luis Ortiz (@OrtizSportsTV) September 26, 2017
And that has happened plenty of times when players come to new teams and have different ideas about how the offense should be run. We saw some friction between Lebron and Kevin Love at one point. Even the Warriors looked out of sync during stretches last season…not everything was on cruise control.
This extension may not be ground-breaking news but it sets the Spurs up to continue to build around both Leonard and Aldridge. That stability may attract younger talent around the league especially with the super-class of NBA free agents in the summer of 2018.