By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Free agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has never seen so much attention in his NBA career. The 29-year-old forward had a chance to change the NBA landscape, and he took his tools to San Antonio, reinforcing the Spurs as championship challengers and giving San Antonio possibly the best front line in the league. Aldridge joins Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard to give San Antonio a pretty intimidating Big Three. And then there’s still Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbli residing on the roster. The Spurs aren’t without their flaws, however. Age continues to be their biggest opponent, and the rest of the Western conference has enough talent to challenge San Antonio, even with Aldridge now alongside Duncan. However, NBA critics are already favoring the Spurs for another title parade next season, but is the celebration too premature? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Green: I’m calling it right now: Spurs win the title in 2016. It took an all-out effort from the Los Angeles Clippers to upend the 2014 champs, and San Antonio showed in that series that they’re still spry enough to be a true contender despite the critics always pointing to their age being a concern. You add Aldridge to that roster beside Duncan, and I don’t see why San Antonio can’t replay the type of dominance they had when their twin towers were an aging David Robinson and a fresh-faced Duncan fresh out of college back in 1999.
Riley: I’m still sold on the Cavaliers winning it all next season. Cleveland’s summer task was built around resigning Kevin Love and that mission has been accomplished. The Cavs, undoubtedly, will start the season with Love, Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mosgov and Anderson Varejao as their big men with some guy named LeBron James rounding out the front court at small forward, so I wouldn’t be so quick to label the Spurs’ front court as the best in the league. On face value alone, San Antonio has some formidable names in their lineup but there isn’t a team in the league as deep as Cleveland when they’re healthy. They’ve already had a year of playing together and they won’t be trying to work in a major piece into their rotation like the Spurs will.
Green: It’s easier to work a four-time all-star big man into your lineup than what you’re making it sound like. Aldridge is the ultimate plug-and-play type of forward. You can throw it to him anywhere in the half court and have the offense play through him. He’s talented enough to make the most difficult shot and has enough vision to get it to the open man. He’ll fit in perfectly with San Antonio and they won’t miss a beat while he gets acclimated to their system. This was the ultimate addition for the Spurs. Aldridge fits their style perfectly and their size will give them a definite edge over the smaller Golden State Warriors, who just rode “small ball” all the way to a title. I’ll be eager to see how those two teams square off next season. but San Antonio definitely has a winning edge with Aldridge in black and silver now.
Riley: You already know about my respect for the Cavs but if we’re strictly talking about Western teams then I would definitely throw Golden State and the Oklahoma City Thunder as two possible wrenches that could mess up your Spurs obsession. The Thunder has given San Antonio problems over the past few years and they too will be returning a lineup that could be among the deepest in the league. Adding Aldridge doesn’t guarantee San Antonio a title. Heck, it doesn’t even promise them a spot in the Western Finals. Recruiting Aldridge was definitely a power play but the games still have to be played on the court.