LaMarcus Aldridge is arguably the best impending free agent on the market. The Portland Trail Blazers forward is one of the best power forwards in the game and a proven all-star. He also happens to be a Dallas native and a free agent target for the Dallas Mavericks.
There has been a lot of buzz lately about who the Mavs should go after in free agency. I wrote a preview on the Mavs offseason a few weeks ago, but this will be more tailored to the three biggest names: Aldridge, Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan.
Let’s start with Gasol. I’m sure Dallas would love to have him, but let’s be real, I don’t think there’s anyway the Grizzlies are letting him go anywhere. Consider this the pie-in-the-sky scenario.
That leaves either Jordan or Aldridge as the two primary targets for Dallas. There has been a lot of Jordan talk over the past few weeks, and even more so now after how the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semis. It seems really possible that Jordan could accept a max deal with someone other than the Clippers, and Dallas seems to be near the top of the list.
Jordan is nice player, and one of the best young centers in basketball and one of the best rim protectors in the game. The A&M product was third in the league in blocks during the regular season at 2.48 blocks per game and first in rebounds at 15.0 boards per game. Per Basketball Reference, the Clippers were ninth in the league this season in defensive rebounding percentage at 75.7, while Jordan himself led the league in total rebounding percentage at 24.5 percent.
Essentially, Jordan is a beast on the glass and an elite rim protector. The problem, however, is that Dallas would be paying Jordan like he’s their best player, and would essentially commit to building around Jordan for the future. Jordan has always been the third wheel with the Clippers, behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and there’s little evidence to suggest that he can become a franchise player. Defensively, he’s got what it takes, but not offensively. He’s essentially a younger, better version of Tyson Chandler.
Then there’s obviously the problem with his free throw percentage (Hack-A-Jordan), which is something that could be fixable. But still, as we’ve seen with Rajon Rondo, a bad free throw shooter really puts a wrench in what Rick Carlisle wants to do offensively.
What the Mavericks are trying to do is win a title in these last few years of the Dirk Nowitzki-era, while also building some sort of foundation for the future. Jordan building a foundation, but just replacing Chandler with him doesn’t get Dallas closer to a title. Perhaps Dallas could sign Jordan, a new shooting guard/point guard and then make a run at more pieces the summer of 2016 when the cap goes up, but that still wastes another year.
Enter LaMarcus Aldridge.
We’ve already seen that Aldridge can be the No. 1 option and franchise player that can get his team to the playoffs in this league. The Blazers looked like a title contender before the injury to Wesley Matthews, and ended up flaming out. But, Aldridge is an all-star, and a borderline NBA superstar.
The ideal situation for Dallas, as I mapped out before, is landing Aldridge and sliding Nowitzki to a sixth-man role off the bench. It’s weird to say that, but Dirk moving to the bench is probably what’s best for the team, and it’s probably the best chance he’s got at winning another ring in his golden years.
The Mavs could then re-sign Chandler as their rim protector and then figure out their back court and bench from there (I detailed those scenarios in a previous piece). The point is, Aldridge is more of a sure thing as far as being able to build around, and the Mavs would have their star for the future in him. Depending on what’s around him, a team with Aldridge could be a title contender in the last couple of years of Dirk’s career.
Again, Jordan is a very nice player, but if I’m the Mavs, I prefer Aldridge. At the end of the day, it’s tough to say whether the Mavs will land either of them, but if they had to pick one, it should be Aldridge.