NBA Trade Buzz: LaMarcus Aldridge Agrees To Mutually Part Ways With The San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge-Spurs partnership nears inevitable end
The LaMarcus Aldridge era in San Antonio is nearing its inevitable end. This has been a move that was speculated even before this season, especially with the fact that the veteran big man’s current contract with the Spurs will expire after this year.
Aldridge, who is already turning 35 this year, is averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Spurs this season. Those numbers are his lowest since his rookie year with the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2006-07 season. On top of that, Aldridge came off the bench in three games this season, something that he has not done since his first year in the league.
As per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Aldridge and the Spurs have mutually agreed to finally part ways either via a trade or a contract buyout if necessary. Spurs long-time head coach Gregg Popovich emphasized that this decision is a win-win move for both sides, while also reiterating that Aldridge has always been a great teammate and player for the Spurs organization.
"He's been a great teammate. No problem there," Popovich said during his virtual pregame media availability. "We just think this is a win-win for both LaMarcus and the club. When an opportunity arises, that'll be up to management, his agent and that sort of thing, and we'll all move forward.
He's done everything we've asked," Popovich said. "At this point, we'd just like to do something that will work for him as much for our club, because he deserves that."
Aldridge spent his first several years in the league with the Blazers, where he established himself as one of the best post scorers in the league. He packs an excellent inside and outside game, and his high-release jumper and soft touch around the rim have helped him dominate in the paint, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
He then signed with the Spurs in 2015 as the organization looked at him as the apparent heir to the retiring Tim Duncan. Aldridge notched an All-Star appearance right in his first year with the Spurs, averaging 18.0 points and 8.5 rebounds.
But his best year in San Antonio came during the 2017-18 season when he put up 23.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per contest. Aldridge produced a career-best 51% overall clip from the field that year, and there was no doubt that at 32 years of age, he was still the cornerstone of the Spurs franchise.
Eventually, Aldridge’s performance declined. Along with the Spurs’ failure to book a ticket to the playoffs last season, Aldridge also saw a dip in his averages, particularly in his scoring, rebounding and shooting percentages.
In his last three games for the Spurs this season, Aldridge was demoted to a role off the bench. In his last game, which was an eleven-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Aldridge only logged in 15 minutes, did not make a single field goal, and finished the night with a measly stat line of 2 points, 4 rebounds and 2 turnovers.
As per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, Popovich said that Aldridge wasn’t the same efficient player before missing six straight games this season due to an injury.
“As you can imagine, he wasn’t the normal LA after sitting out so long. But he gave it a hell of an effort and did a good job overall. Not in a physical sense because of injury or anything like that. We will see what kind of shape he is in. He hasn’t played in a while, so we will find that out as the game goes.”
So if the injury is indeed hindering Aldridge from getting back to his usual deadly form, the Spurs front office might not have a leverage in trade negotiations. Aldridge is already 35 years of age, and he does not have the physical ability to be a defensive anchor or stay in front of perimeter players in multiple switches.
As per Jesus Gomez of SB Nation’s Pounding The Rock, Aldridge’s value in the trade market is not that high, which would make it difficult for the Spurs front office to net great returns in an Aldridge deal.
The first issue is that the same limitations that make Aldridge expendable for the Spurs would make him an unattractive target for other teams. Offensively, he’s still able to contribute as a scorer and his solid outside shooting could make him a decent floor-stretching center, but on the other end, Aldridge doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a starter anymore. The Spurs have been a disaster on defense with Aldridge on the floor for a while now, which is not surprising considering his deteriorating athleticism. At this point he can’t defend away from the paint but, most worryingly, also can’t seem to protect the rim at a high level. Even in ultra conservative schemes that have the big parked under the rim, LMA could struggle.
Aldridge could help as a bench big who punishes second units down low, but he’s not paid like that type of player, which could complicate things. The NBA requires trades to have teams sending out a similar amount of salary that they take in, so making a trade work would require a franchise to either package several players or move a highly paid one.
But it is not only Aldridge who is the Spurs player that teams are observing in the trade market. DeMar DeRozan’s current contract will also expire this offseason, and his all-around brilliance this season should garner him enough interest and give the Spurs additional leverage in negotiations with other teams.
DeRozan, who is on his third year with the Spurs after being traded in 2018, is currently putting up 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-best 7.2 assists per contest. He has become a better playmaker ever since he landed in San Antonio, and that is a great testament to Popovich’s brilliance and the unselfish system that he employs with this Spurs squad.
As per Shams Charania of The Athletic, he confirmed that the Spurs are indeed open to conversations about a trade for DeRozan and Aldridge, along with other veterans like scoring forward Rudy Gay, stretch power forward Trey Lyles and long-tenured sweet-shooting point guard Patty Mills.
The Spurs are receiving calls on their veteran players who are pending free agents — LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Trey Lyles and Patty Mills — and are listening to inquiries, sources said. San Antonio is the sixth seed in the Western Conference at 18-13, blending its veterans and talented young core of Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV.
DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, is having an All-Star-caliber season — averaging 20 points and a career-high 7.3 assists per game and helping lead the roster.
If this is true, then we might see the Spurs go on a full youth movement that should actually be the more logical avenue to take this season instead of giving the aging pairing of DeRozan and Aldridge another shot at the playoffs. The Spurs now have a valuable young core that includes a two-way budding star in Dejounte Murray, a former Team USA member in Derrick White, an athletic combo wing in Lonnie Walker IV, and the quickly-improving Keldon Johnson.
Now that Aldridge is on his way out, look for Jakob Poetl to gain a bigger and more permanent role in the Spurs’ frontcourt, while also logging in more playing time for Popovich.