According to recent NBA trade rumors, the San Antonio Spurs may move star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. If traded, where might Aldridge end up?
Oct 12, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) defends during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs have two All-NBA players in power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and small forward Kawhi Leonard. Following the stunning retirement of Tim Duncan, the Spurs are more invested than ever in Aldridge and Leonard ensuring the success of future teams—or not.
According to a recent report, Aldridge’s tenure in San Antonio may not last much longer.
The Spurs signed Aldridge to a four-year deal worth $84 million during the summer of 2015. San Antonio bowed out in the second round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs, however, which is an early exit for an organization like the Spurs.
During a recent interview with CSN New England, Jackie MacMullan revealed that the Spurs aren’t entirely sold on the idea of building around Aldridge.
Sources were telling me the other day that LaMarcus Aldridge may not even finish the year with the Spurs. That experiment hasn’t quite worked out the way they’d hoped.
That’s quite the revelation.
Aldridge finished the 2015-16 regular season with averages of 18.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 30.6 minutes per game. He averaged 21.9 points in 33.7 minutes during the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
Based on the individual success he’s experienced, it’s hardly surprising that the Spurs are reportedly denying the existence of any trade talks.
FWIW, Spurs sources are denying trade talks involving LaMarcus Aldridge have taken place.
Aldridge is a four-time All-NBA honoree, including the Second Team nod he received in 2014-15 and the Third Team selection he earned in 2015-16. He’s a five-time All-Star with 34 games of postseason experience and career averages of 22.1 points and 8.8 rebounds in the playoffs.
The question is: which teams could actually deal for Aldridge if the Spurs decide to trade him?
Feb 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) celebrates with center Jahlil Okafor (8) after a score against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Honorable Mention: Philadelphia 76ers
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers have a surplus of big men and a general manager who wants to win sooner than later. Bryan Colangelo has orchestrated immediate turnarounds in the past, and this could be another opportunity for him to do so.
By pairing LaMarcus Aldridge with Joel Embiid, the 76ers could potentially revitalize the organization and return to the playoffs with just one trade.
Aldridge could be swapped for Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor, with both teams gaining additional assets in the deal. Noel would anchor the Spurs’ defensive interior and Okafor has drawn Tim Duncan comparisons, whether appropriate or otherwise.
If a third team were to get involved, thus giving Aldridge more veteran help in Philadelphia, this deal could work—and that’s the only way this deal could work.
The reason this trade won’t happen is because of the integrity of the San Antonio Spurs’ front office. It’s hard to imagine R.C. Buford trading Aldridge to a non-contender in the prime of his career, but don’t write this off entirely.
Aldridge to a contender, Okafor or Noel to San Antonio, and said contender sending players to Philadelphia could make sense. See: the following slides.
Oct 16, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. The Hawks won 105-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
5. Atlanta Hawks
How hungry are the Atlanta Hawks to land a big name like LaMarcus Aldridge? That question would be answered based on whether or not Mike Budenholzer has interest in trading starting power forward Paul Millsap—the centerpiece of many rumors in 2016—for Aldridge.
If Atlanta is indeed hungry for star power, then pairing Aldridge with Dwight Howard would certainly achieve that goal.
One could make a case that Aldridge and Howard can’t lead Atlanta to a title, but can Millsap and Howard? I’m cautiously optimistic about their chances, but both are on the wrong side of 30, meaning both have limited windows.
Aldridge is 31 years of age, but he and Howard are household names who could make Atlanta a high-profile team that sells tickets and attracts free agency discussions. That may be enough for the Hawks’ ownership and executives, whether it should be or not.
Millsap, of course, is one of the most versatile players in the NBA—the type of player whom Gregg Popovich could work wonders with.
While I prefer Millsap and Howard, there’s no denying that Atlanta would have two All-NBA players with Aldridge and Howard on the roster.
Mar 4, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) and guard Avery Bradley (0) celebrate against the Utah Jazz during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
4. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics piled up draft picks in 2016, which has put the organization in a unique position. Having already signed Al Horford, Boston could potentially land another All-Star big man in LaMarcus Aldridge.
Boston has an abundance of young talent to offer, as well as players who could provide immediate value to the San Antonio Spurs’ championship aspirations.
This deal would likely hinge upon Boston swapping Avery Bradley for Danny Green, which may be a deal-breaker for Danny Ainge. It could work well, however, as Green, like Bradley, is a 3-and-D specialist—one with a championship pedigree..
In San Antonio, Bradley and Kawhi Leonard—who both made the All-Defensive First Team in 2015-16—would dominate defensively.
Boston would also need to include Marcus Smart and—yes, and—the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round draft pick to provide the upside that San Antonio would likely be looking for. If that trade were executed, the trio of Smart, Bradley, and Leonard could destroy teams defensively.
It’s not likely—Boston would have to give up a bundle and San Antonio would be building long-term with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still on the roster—but it could work.
Apr 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) handles the ball against New Orleans Pelicans guard Toney Douglas (16) during the first quarter of the game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
3. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls are compiling talent in a way that suggests Gar Forman isn’t done dealing. Dwyane Wade was brought in to mentor Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo was landed to create penetration, defend, and keep the offense flowing.
Though it’s those three who have begun to command headlines, there are a number of players on the Bulls’ roster who could have value to the San Antonio Spurs.
Nikola Mirotic is a European legend whom Spurs center Pau Gasol is quite familiar with. His game is tailor made for the Spurs’ offensive system and the hope remains that he can achieve stardom in the NBA, much as he did in Liga ACB.
San Antonio has a long history of helping European players excel in the NBA, and the 25-year-old Mirotic has already flashed enough to display his upside.
After Mirotic, the Bulls have two defensive-minded big men with enough offensive versatility to excel in San Antonio: Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez. Chicago also has two promising young point guards in Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams.
Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis both impressed in 2015-16, as well, which gives Chicago enough firepower to potentially get something done.
Oct 13, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) looks to make a move on Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
2. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have been anxiously awaiting the day that Jonas Valanciunas makes the leap to stardom. He’s yet to do so, although he did play at said level during the 2016 NBA Playoffs—a run that was cut short by an injury.
If the Raptors are tired of waiting for Valanciunas to step up, then offering him to the San Antonio Spurs could start a conversation about LaMarcus Aldridge.
Toronto wouldn’t be able to trade Valanciunas for Aldridge straight up, but that’d be a strong starting point. Valanciunas is still just 24 years of age, and his 25th birthday won’t be until May of 2017—an appealing truth in terms of team building.
If the Spurs opted to pair a 24-year-old Valanciunas with a 25-year-old Kawhi Leonard, the proverbial rebuild—or retool, or reload—would be more structurally aligned.
As for Toronto, dealing Valanciunas—and other pieces—would create a sense of arrival. Yes, the Raptors made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, but LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are still the clear favorites.
This is far from a guaranteed move, but if Toronto were to land Aldridge, it’d have three All-Stars in their prime—a tantalizing possibility in the Big Three era.
Apr 30, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots the ball over Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) in game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
1. San Antonio Spurs
It’s been fun to look into where LaMarcus Aldridge could end up if traded to another team. There’s simply no destination more probable for Aldridge in 2016-17 than the team he already plays for: the San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs aren’t the type of organization to let trade rumors leak out, which is reason enough to believe he’s not on the trade market—not right now, at least.
San Antonio may have lost in the Western Conference Semifinals, but it won 67 games in 2015-16. Its loss in the Western Conference Semifinals was to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that went up 3-1 on the Golden State Warriors a round later.
To notion that Aldridge is holding the Spurs back is both premature and inconsistent with the facts that surfaced in 2015-16.
San Antonio won a franchise record 67 games in 2015-16. That includes a record of 61-13 when Aldridge played and a 16-0 record when Aldridge scored at least 25 points—two numbers that are as indicative of his value as any number.
Aldridge may or may not be the player who leads the Spurs back to the promise land.