It's not a bad time to be a former Texas Longhorns big man -- after freshman forward Myles Turner went No. 11 to the Indiana Pacers last week in the 2015 NBA Draft, Texas Exes LaMarcus Aldridge and Tristan Thompson are set to earn massive contracts.
Thompson will reportedly remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers after signing what will likely be a 5-year, $80-million contract as a restricted free agent. Last summer, the aggressive offensive rebounder turned down a 4-year, $52 million contract, so his decision to to wait paid off for him in a big way after he was an instrumental part of Cleveland's run to the NBA Finals.
During that stretch, Thompson endeared himself to Cavs fans by averaging 9.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in the playoffs, numbers that hardly address his overall impact on the court. An improved finisher around the rim, Thompson was a beast on the glass, especially offensively. At times, it looked like there weren't any players in the league willing enough or capable enough of keeping him from crashing the boards.
One of the most important people Thompson now has in his corner? LeBron James, who loves Double-T's motor and willigness to learn, then opined that the 6'8, 238-pounder taken with the fourth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft should remain in Cleveland his whole career. If Thompson does indeed ink the reported contract, he'll at least be there for the foreseeable future.
With the big money will come greater scrutiny and more pressure to keep improving his game, especially offensively. Can Thompson develop into a post presence instead of an energy guy extraordinnaire? The answer to that question could determine his ability to land another big contract as he gets into his late 20s. In regards to where he is right now, Bleacher Report took an excellent look at his current strengths and weaknesses.
As for Aldridge, he looks like he will have the incredible opportunity to play with, learn from, and eventually succeed Tim Duncan, unquestionably one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. He would do so in his home state of Texas, for one of the best-run organizations in sports -- the San Antonio Spurs.
Throw in the big-time contract and it's clear why Aldridge is eyeing the move. But could he end up in Phoenix after meeting with the Suns on Wednesday? The issue for the Suns is that Aldridge is moving on from the Trailblazers because the team only won one playoff series during his seasons in Portland, but Phoenix hardly offers a greater short-term opportunity in the crowded West.
A visit with San Antonio reportedly impressed Aldridge, and it's hard to see him having any better opportunities, especially since the Spurs cleared the cap space necessary to land the All-Star power forward by trading center Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks.
So the guess here is that Aldridge returns to Texas.
Wherever he ends up, he will join Thompson as two of the most highly-paid free agents this summer and that's good to see for any Longhorns fan.