|Aldridge with his old laundry|
By bringing in LaMarcus Aldridge and sending out Tiago Splitter, the Spurs set themselves up for success in the post-Tim Duncan Era, not that anyone should be expecting that to start any time soon. With a starting five of Duncan, Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green, the Spurs are built for success in halfcourt sets, while still having lockdown defense from Leonard and Green. They can still go 10-deep to conserve starter minutes for the games that matter, have the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich, and could easily win 60+ games, even in the meat grinder West.
It's also telling that Aldridge made his choice to go to SA, not LA, Phoenix, or any number of other interested suitors. Short of going to the lEast and trying to game the system in the same way that James does, Aldridge might have made his choice simply because he wants to win more than anything else. And wow, is he ever going to do that, especially with those forwards around him.
Remember, the Spurs got to Game Seven against the Clippers with major minutes going to Splitter and Manu Ginobili, with Parker and Leonard having serious injury issues. They were going to be better next year just with rest and recuperation, and another year of development from Leonard and Green. Now, they have the first truly talented offensive big for Duncan to work with since the David Robinson days, and even more open space for the Spurs' three-point shooters to sight up looks. It's by no means a lock for them to go to the Finals -- the Warriors are not going to give up their title without a very strong fight, Dallas is a lot better all of a sudden, Houston got to the Conference Finals while being down multiple starters, and so on -- but they are clearly on the short list.
Losers in this? Well, Phoenix looks like they lost in and all-in shove, the Clippers suddenly look like a .500 team that can't defend scoring bigs, and it should be clear to everyone by now that the Lakers aren't going to be good again anytime soon. But the biggest losers are clearly the Trail Blazers, who lost a 23/10 machine that seemed to be getting better every year, who made his teammates better, and who might still be on the upswing.
Every other year for a Spurs title, right?