The San Antonio Spurs have indicated that they are open to trading LaMarcus Aldridge. Should the Detroit Pistons try to make a trade for the star forward?
The Detroit Pistons ended last season in defeat at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but one of the biggest mismatches the Cavs used against them was Kevin Love. The Pistons didn’t have a big who could stick with Love at the perimeter, allowing the Cavs to pick them apart defensively.
They went into the offseason intent on shoring up that spot specifically to be able to erase the unstoppable advantage that Love gave the Cavs. After all, when you’re up against LeBron James, the last thing you need is a big man you can’t stop from hitting threes on top of everything.
The Detroit Pistons made moves to that end in free agency. They signed Jon Leuer, who is an effective stretch-four himself, and they drafted Henry Ellenson, who may turn into a stretch-big-man in time. However, while the Pistons are now improved at the power forward spot, they aren’t elite at that position.
Enter the San Antonio Spurs and their suddenly disgruntled power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge signed with the Spurs last offseason, ostensibly to become the face of the team and the number one scoring option. Everybody forgot about Kawhi Leonard, who emerged as the true star in San Antonio last season, and now Aldridge may be seeking greener pastures.
For instance, 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 hoped.
Mind you, the Spurs have yet to confirm this rumor, but Jackie MaMullan is well-respected so let’s run with this. If the Spurs do in fact want to trade Aldridge, should the Pistons try to trade for him? If so, what assets and players are they willing to surrender in exchange for the 31-year-old power forward?
Let’s look at some scenarios, all of which are ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine-approved.
Oct 10, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) dribbles the ball as San Antonio Spurs guard Patricio Garino (29) defends during the fourth quarter of the game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons 86-81. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports
The Pistons could flip Tobias Harris, KCP and Stanley Johnson for Aldridge. The Pistons get an elite stretch-four who can space the floor by virtue of his superior mid-range shot. Aldridge doesn’t shoot the three-pointer, but he shoots so well from the mid-range that defenses have to respect his 18-foot jump shot.
That’s a dangerous asset next to Andre Drummond, who is one of the league’s best rebounders and most explosive forces in the paint.
This appeals to the Spurs because Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is their public enemy #1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is one of the few NBA wings with a reputation of being able to harry and distress Curry, and with this offseason’s addition of Pau Gasol to the frontcourt, the Spurs may decide that KCP is a piece they must have.
Tobias Harris could start for the Spurs alongside Pau Gasol and Kawhi Leonard in the frontcourt.
Note: This trade uses current salaries and is scuttled if the Pistons extend KCP.
This trade is painful, and it leaves the Pistons weakened in the wings. It would force the Pistons to accelerate the learning process for Stanley Johnson who would likely be slotted into the starting shooting guard spot, and the Pistons would be giving up one of the biggest steals in this past draft.
On the upside, anything Tobias Harris can do, LaMarcus Aldridge can do better. Aldridge averages 19.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his career, and over his final two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers before leaving to San Antonio, he averaged 23.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Aldridge is an offensive force from the paint to the mid-range, and this is a price worth paying to get him.
Oct 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Jon Leuer (30) is defended by Atlanta Hawks forward Ryan Kelly (30) in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Pistons trade Jon Leuer, Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and a protected first round draft pick.
The Spurs trade LaMarcus Aldridge.
Note: This trade has not been run through the trade simulator because Leuer cannot be traded until the middle of December, as he was signed this offseason. Never the less, the salaries do work.
There’s no way to swing a trade for Aldridge without cutting deep into both the Pistons’ roster and draft picks. Jon Leuer is an interesting new piece to the puzzle for the Pistons, but not an overly exciting one.
He may be an intriguing enough plug-and-play piece off the bench for the Spurs to go along with potential young stars in Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson.
If the Pistons could get the Spurs to take this deal, they should. The Spurs could rid themselves of an unhappy star, replace him with an ultra-solid stretch-four off the bench and stock the assets with Johnson, Ellenson and a first round draft pick which will be likely to convey.
The Pistons want to win and win now, and while Ellenson and Johnson show promise, they’re far from sure things. LaMarcus Aldridge is a sure thing.
As an added perk, the Pistons get to keep KCP in this scenario.
Oct 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) dribbles the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in the second quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Pistons trade Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and a protected first round draft pick.
The San Antonio Spurs trade LaMarcus Aldridge.
No addendum to this trade, it is not pending any deadline or contract extensions.
This might be the most logical deal for both teams. The Spurs could swap Aldridge for Tobias Harris, a tweener with wingspan who can help be disruptive on defense alongside Kawhi Leonard. While Harris is no defensive stalwart, his length in combination with that of Leonard will make life tough on opposing offenses.
The Spurs also get to stock their assets and young guys with a draft pick, Johnson and Ellenson.
This is a winning trade for both teams. The Pistons give up a future asset in a draft pick and have to surrender Johnson and Ellenson, but as we said in the last scenario, those guys aren’t sure things. LaMarcus Aldridge most definitely is.
The Pistons could feature a starting lineup of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Drummond. This becomes a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.