Why the Spurs Decided to Fully Guarantee LaMarcus Aldridge’s Contract

LaMarcus Aldridge had his contract fully guaranteed hours before the San Antonio Spurs were to begin their season against the New York Knicks. Prior to the move, only $7 million of the money Aldridge was owed for the 2020-21 season was guaranteed, while another $17 million was optional at San Antonio’s discretion. Now, the entire amount — $24 million — is guaranteed. 

Why Did the Spurs Guarantee LaMarcus Aldridge’s Contract?

This move was done as a goodwill gesture by the Spurs. Aldridge has outplayed his current contract, which was a three-year extension worth approximately $72 million signed back in October of 2017. Since he put pen to paper, he’s had his two best seasons in San Antonio and was named an All-Star both seasons.

By guaranteeing Aldridge’s 2020-21 salary, it removes a little bit of uncertainty for the star big man. He can play this season without worrying about his free agency status. 

The Spurs knew it was very unlikely that they’d opt to release Aldridge after this season. Barring a catastrophic injury, Aldridge was going to be brought back. That was made even clearer this summer when the Spurs gave Rudy Gay and DeMarre Carroll guaranteed money over two seasons. 

A full youth movement now won’t start until the summer of 2021 at the earliest. That’s when contracts for Aldridge, Gay, Carroll* and Patty Mills expire. If DeMar DeRozan picks up his player option, he too will be an expiring contract in the summer of 2021.

Was There Any Tangible Upside for San Antonio?

No. What they basically traded was a modicum of hypothetical financial flexibility this upcoming summer for a happier Aldridge.

Considering Aldridge’s sensitive and prideful nature, it was likely a smart move. Remember, Aldridge came thisclose to demanding a trade because he thought Pop was trying to change him as a player. 

Another recent example of Aldridge’s pride came when a reporter asked if he’s learning anything from new assistant coach Tim Duncan.

“I am who I am,” Aldridge replied. “I’m happy to have Tim on the staff. I’m happy to be around him. He’s a great guy — he’s been through it all. But I am who I am.”

Aldridge being prideful and sensitive isn’t all bad. His belief in himself and dedication to his craft has kept him playing at a high level when many of his contemporaries have fallen off. And, besides, he wouldn’t have left the Portland Trail Blazers to come to San Antonio in the first place if his feelings weren’t hurt due to feeling underappreciated.

Could the Decision Backfire?

It’s possible. If Aldridge suffers a serious injury, the Spurs won’t have any recourse. Alternatively, if DeRozan opts out and leaves this summer, it’s now more difficult to start the youth movement a year early.

But, overall, with a few flicks of a pen, the Spurs have now made the best player on their team happier and more secure by making official today what was almost a foregone conclusion.

*The Spurs owe Carroll a little money ($1.35 million, to be exact) in the 2021-22 season if they release him.