Should Spurs trade LaMarcus Aldridge?
The San Antonio Spurs got swept in the Western Conference Finals, but the series was lost when Kawhi Leonard got hurt in the second half of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors when San Antonio was up by 23 points. The Spurs may have had a chance, but now that window is closed.
Manu Ginobili likely played his last game, and Tony Parker will be a 35-year-old point guard coming off a declining season and a ruptured quad. That’s not to mention all the other offseason questions the team faces this summer.
The biggest question for the Spurs is what to do with LaMarcus Aldridge. Trading him would open the cap space to go after a player that better pairs with Leonard, such as Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry or Gordon Hayward. However, what team would be willing to take on an outdated post player with a $21 million salary?
Aldridge is known as a face-up power forward who thrives in the mid-range but can’t quite shoot 3s with appreciable consistency. He’s a lot like DeMar DeRozan. When he’s got it going from 18 feet, there’s not much you can do to stop him. At 6-foot-10 with a 9-foot-2 standing reach, Aldridge can shoot over just about anyone. However, when that shot isn’t falling, there isn’t a whole lot more he can do.
He’s not a great roll man, and anyone who watched the playoffs can tell you that posting him up isn’t the best option for an offense. (Aldridge scored an inefficient 0.98 points per possession on 7.1 post-ups per game.)
Since signing in San Antonio, Aldridge has become a better rim protector. His rim protection stats are similar to those of Utah’s Rudy Gobert (although there’s a lot of noise in those numbers, they still illustrate that Aldridge is much improved on that end).
Aldridge would be best used as a center in today’s game, but he’s reluctant to play that position. A team trading for him would likely have to pair him with a stretch 5. He is also on an expiring deal (Aldridge has a player option worth $22 million for the 2018–19 season), so there’s some risk in acquiring him. He’d fit on a team with multiple ballhandlers who can drive and kick, and a Steve Nash-like prober at point guard who can set up Aldridge for easy buckets.
If San Antonio did want to trade him, where would be the best places for Aldridge to land, and what should the Spurs hope to get back?
Spurs send: Aldridge
Pacers send: Al Jefferson, 2017 first-round pick (18 overall)
The Pacers are desperate to keep Paul George in Indiana, and they should make a move to bolster the roster sooner rather than later. Enter Aldridge, who would pair well with Myles Turner in the frontcourt. Turner is the floor-spacing 5 Aldridge needs to play with. He’ll create space for Aldridge to operate on the block, while Aldridge is a major upgrade over Thaddeus Young at the 4 spot.
With Aldridge, the Spurs became a more isolation-heavy team, straying from the beautiful ball movement we’ve come to love from Gregg Popovich’s offense. Meanwhile, the Pacers ran the eighth-most isolation plays last season, per NBA.com. Aldridge would be a more natural fit in Indiana, while providing a bona fide second option to George.
The Spurs would get Al Jefferson, an even more prehistoric version of Aldridge but on a much cheaper deal. Jefferson will make $9.7 million next season, and his contract is partially guaranteed in 2018–19. San Antonio would save nearly $12 million this summer, allowing the organization to go shopping or possibly retain its own free agents, and would be able to get out of the deal after just one year. The Spurs would also get the 18th pick in the draft to replace outgoing veterans, or use to package in a trade to rebuild around Leonard.
Spurs send: Aldridge, 2017 first-round pick (29)
Hornets send: Miles Plumlee, Marvin Williams, 2017 first-round pick (11)
Charlotte needs to shake things up, and trading for Aldridge could finally give the Hornets a second scorer to pair with Kemba Walker. Kemba can’t be asked to carry the offense all season, and adding Aldridge takes some of the weight off the small point guard’s shoulders. Throw Aldridge next to Frank Kaminsky: Walker would then have plenty of space to drive to the rim and kick out to open shooters.
San Antonio, meanwhile, would add a true stretch-4 in Marvin Williams. The Spurs fiddled with Jonathon Simmons as a small-ball 4 in the playoffs, but Simmons is better off playing the 3. Williams gives the Spurs more versatility up front, and is a knockdown shooter from the corners. Popovich liked to start Dewayne Dedmon and bring Pau Gasol off the bench last season. However, Dedmon is a free agent who may be hard to re-sign. Plumlee is a young, traditional center who can step into Dedmon’s role.
The Hornets would get a №2 scorer, and the Spurs would get some depth and move up in the draft after swapping first-round picks.
Spurs send: Aldridge
Bulls send: Dwyane Wade, Bobby Portis
This one is for fun.
With Ginobili likely retiring, how awesome would it be for the Spurs to bring in Dwyane Wade and have him replace Manu as the team’s super sixth man? Wade would go to San Antonio, where he can prolong his career and compete for another title. In the event that Parker isn’t healthy next season, Wade would also be able to step in as the Spurs’ de facto point guard.
As for the Bulls, they don’t have the makeup of a team that would best be able to use him. The Pacers and Hornets both have enough floor spacing and the primary ballhandlers to help Aldridge thrive.
Which team doesn’t care about floor spacing? The Bulls.
On the bright side, they wouldn’t really lose any spacing by swapping Wade for Aldridge, and they would get a low-post player to pair with Jimmy Butler or build around if they decide to trade him. It’s a win-win, but mostly it’s a win for the fans.