LaMarcus Aldridge Will Reportedly Meet With The Raptors In Free Agency

A new, dark-horse suitor has emerged in the running for prospective free agent LaMarcus Aldridge. According to Shams Charania of RealGM, the four-time All-Star will meet with the Toronto Raptors once free agency finally begins later this week.

Aldridge purportedly informed the Portland Trail Blazers of his decision to sign with another team last week. Despite insisting last summer that he would ultimately remain in the Pacific Northwest in the long term upon declining an extension from the team, it’s now become apparent the nine-year veteran will continue his stellar career elsewhere.

Prevailing notions were that the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks stood the best chance of winning the Aldridge free-agency sweepstakes. However, it was reported last week that the Los Angeles Lakers also have a realistic chance at landing the sweet-shooting big man.

Like the Raptors, the Mavericks and Lakers have the requisite cap space to immediately offer Aldridge a four-year max-level contract. The rumored favorite Spurs, on the other hand, would need Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to return at hometown discounts and complete a significant trade – likely centered around Tiago Splitter – to make room for the 29-year-old’s impending salary. Though the former scenario appears imminent, those roster gymnastics nonetheless complicate Aldridge’s potential move to San Antonio.

Might that open the door for other teams? Toronto’s sudden involvement certainly suggests as much.

The Raptors are coming off an up-and-down 2014-15 campaign. After blazing to a fantastic start that had them the talk of the league, an injury to DeMar DeRozan and widespread defensive issues contributed to a dispiriting second half that culminated with a sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean Toronto isn’t an attractive destination for Aldridge. Getting away from the Western Conference automatically increases any star’s odds at a Finals appearance, and the Raptors have a solid, if unspectacular, nucleus in place led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. While adding Aldridge wouldn’t make Dwane Casey’s team prohibitive favorites in the East, doing so would drastically improve the Raptors’ immediate and future hopes nonetheless.

Barring a minor shock, though, Aldridge still seems bound for Texas or Los Angeles. As we’ve seen time and again, however, anything can happen in free agency, and that Masai Ujiri and company will be afforded the opportunity to woo Aldridge certainly increases the chance for such a surprise.

(Via Shams Charania)