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3 best LaMarcus Aldridge destinations if he comes out of retirement

LaMarcus Aldridge-Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge-Nets, LaMarcus Aldridge-Bulls

LaMarcus Aldridge is contemplating a return to the NBA after retiring suddenly this past April, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Aldridge left pro basketball after 15 seasons due to an irregular heartbeat. However, following a positive medical consultation, the seven-time All-Star big man may return to the hardwood for the 2021-22 campaign.

A five-time All-NBA selection, Aldridge produced per-game averages of 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 blocks throughout his career. Last season, however, was a rough campaign for Aldridge. He began the year with the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs, who reduced his minutes in favor of younger players. The Spurs agreed to a buyout with Aldridge, who ultimately signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

Just five games into his Nets’ tenure, Aldridge had to stop playing following his health scare. In what appeared to be his final NBA season, Aldridge averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds across 26 games combined with the Spurs and Nets.

While Aldridge has not officially confirmed he will return to the league, he is expected to “have conversations with prospective teams in the coming weeks,” according to Wojnarowski’s report.

Assuming Aldridge returns for a 16th NBA season, what are some of the best destinations for the former star big man? Let’s rank the three best fits for the 36-year-old.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge-Blazers

Aldridge spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. He ultimately left the team via free agency in 2015, joining the Spurs. In turn, a LaMarcus Aldridge-Blazers connection makes sense.

The No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, Aldridge earned four All-Star appearances with the Trail Blazers. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds.

Roughly two years ago, Aldridge told Jason Quick of The Athletic that he remains in contact with Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard. Aldridge even claimed that he told Lillard he would eventually return to Portland to finish his career. Aldridge and Lillard played together in Portland from 2012-15.

Aldridge clearly has fond memories of his playing days with the Trail Blazers. While Lillard has been connected to countless trade rumors this summer, the All-Star guard has never formally requested out of Portland.

A reunion with Aldridge is not a long-term fix for the Trail Blazers, who did not upgrade their roster much after being bounced in the opening round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. However, Lillard may relish the opportunity to play with Aldridge for what could be the big man’s final season.

The Trail Blazers do not have many quality bigs on their roster. Jusuf Nurkic and the newly-signed Cody Zeller are the only true big men on the roster. The 6-foot-7 Robert Covington starts at the four. Despite being undersized, he is an excellent defender.

Suffice to say, the Trail Blazers need a big man and Aldridge could be their best available option. He’d likely be used as the team’s sixth man but could draw spots if Nurkic misses time due to injury. Certainly, a LaMarcus Aldridge-Blazers reconnection would sit well with fans.

2. LaMarcus Aldridge-Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are another team who could use a big off the bench. They dealt Thaddeus Young in the sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan. Daniel Theis has already left in free agency, signing a deal with the Houston Rockets. Lauri Markkanen is a restricted free agent, but reports indicate that the Bulls are moving on from the 24-year-old. In turn, a LaMarcus Aldridge-Bulls fit can work.

All-Star Center Nikola Vucevic will man the middle for the Bulls. Power forward Patrick Williams started in all 71 of his appearances during his rookie campaign last year. But the Bulls will need quality frontcourt reserves. They did sign 23-year-old center Tony Bradley for depth purposes.

Aldridge, though, would be an even better add for the second unit’s front court. He would give the Bulls another veteran presence and be a solid reserve scorer. The Bulls reportedly had Aldridge on their radar earlier this season before his retirement, according NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson.

Signing with the Bulls would also enable Aldridge the chance to reunite with DeRozan after the two played with one another in San Antonio. So, in theory, a LaMarcus Aldridge-Bulls signing could work wonders for both parities.

1. LaMarcus Aldridge-Nets

If Aldridge’s goal is to win an NBA championship—something that eluded him throughout his decorated career—his best shot may be to sign another veteran’s minimum contract with the Nets. The Nets are the favorites to win the 2022 NBA championship, according to oddsmakers. Basically, it’s LaMarcus Aldridge-Nets for a title or bust.

Aldridge has unfinished business with the Nets. In his five games with the club last year, he averaged 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 52.1 percent from the field. He started every contest he played with the Nets, but he would have to accept a backup role now that Blake Griffin has solidified the starting center spot.

Following his sudden departure from the league, Aldridge spoke highly of the Nets organization.  A few months ago, he said on Twitter he would be willing to serve as a coach of the Nets, responding to a fan’s idea.

Assuming Aldridge gets the full clearance from his doctors and Brooklyn’s team doctors, returning to the Nets as a player could be an opportunity the former star can’t pass up.