Robert Flom (@RichHomieFlom): The Clips should absolutely try to re-sign Cole Aldrich. He was one of the biggest bright spots in this fairly miserable 2015-16 season, proving himself to be one of the best backup centers in the NBA. Still youngish, Cole is going to be a big commodity, and for good reason. He can score in the paint, protect the basket and rebound the ball. If the Clippers can bring him back on the MLE, they absolutely must do it.
The issue is that there are going to be teams who can offer him more money and a bigger role than the Clippers can. The MLE is smaller (in proportion) than ever before, and with the Clippers Cole is limited to around 15 minutes a game most nights. While he is well-liked on the team, and probably enjoys playing in Los Angeles, this upcoming contract is probably going to be Cole's only real free agent deal, and he needs to make it count. So should the Clippers re-sign him? Yes! Will they be able to? Doubtful.
Niels Pineda (@NielsPineda): This is such a tough question to answer, because it is impossible to gauge who will be available in our price range this offseason. That being said, Aldrich is undoubtedly deserving of at least the MLE. However, even if he was willing to take that to stay with the Clippers, my willingness to re-sign him is dependent on what small forwards are available at the same price. If we can get a forward on the same level of Aldrich, I feel that it's an easy decision...but just by sweeping through the free agent list, there are very few names that really strike me as possibilities. I know this was a bit of a non-answer, so I'll try to leave it with something more definitive: with the lack of quality SFs in our price range, I believe that Aldrich will be the Clips' best choice and they should re-sign him if he's willing to accept the mid-level exception.
Lucas Hann (@LJHann): I feel like I might have been the first one to jump off the Cole Train. I think he's a great guy and a very effective backup center, but my initial perspective was that the Clippers shouldn't give him the MLE. To me, it was simple: he can only play C, and we have a max contract, All-NBA 1st-teamer DeAndre Jordan who can only play C. It definitely makes sense to use the MLE on a player who can either play small forward or have positional versatility between power forward and center.
While that still makes sense in theory, I've kind of turned around after examining the market. I'm not sure that the Clippers can get a third big with the MLE who wouldn't be a gamble - Cole should be a sure thing: a good player coming back in the same role. Rather than saying "we can only get 48 minutes out of DJ/Cole", my perspective is now that by signing Cole we would be guaranteeing ourselves 48 minutes a night of solid center play, and that's valuable. I expect that Doc will want to play small ball when Blake sits (~12 minutes a night of Jeff Green at the 4), so let's cement that center position and then do our best with versatile combo forwards, just like last year - hopefully Luc Mbah a Moute and/or Wes Johnson can be retained, as well as adding a new face or two with upside.
Adithya (@brownasthenight): If you love him, let him go. Like Darren Collison, Aldrich is coming off a spectacular year as a backup and opting out to get a well-deserved payday. Like with Collison, his on-court flexibility is limited and it doesn't make sense for the Clippers to commit the full MLE to him (and in Aldrich's case, he might go for a lot more anyway). Aldrich was a good third big, but his value to the Clippers is only so much when he can only play 10-15 minutes a night, almost all in relief of DeAndre Jordan and none alongside him. In addition, he's coming off a career year where he approached bests in scoring, efficiency, rebounding, blocks and steals; there's a decent chance that he may not be able to replicate that performance next year.
Taylor Smith (@TaylorBojangles): In a normal year I'd hesitate to give Aldrich the full mid-level exception, but with the cap exploding the MLE is suddenly a complete bargain. The ~$5.6 million annual value accounts for just over 6% if the salary cap is $90 million next season, and quite a bit less once it makes another big leap going into the 2017-18 campaign. There are a slew of viable centers expected to be available this summer, and as of now it's tough to gauge what kind of offer Aldrich will get. With so many bigs out there, Cole's lack of big minute experience and the way the league is trending toward more small ball, it's not impossible to imagine he gets no offer higher than the MLE.
Is there a team out there that could offer him a bigger role than he'd have with the Clips? Surely, but if he'd be willing to return to L.A. on the MLE I'd be highly inclined to do it if I'm Doc Rivers. There will be other options out there for LAC with that money, but not necessarily better ones. Aldrich excelled in his role last season and he would be a fantastic insurance policy to have in the terrifying event of a long-term injury to D.J.