Analyzing Four Unpopular Aldridge Deals


The abrupt news of LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs’ divorce sent shockwaves across the league. While inevitable, it was the timing that caught many off-guard, with Gregg Popovich dishing on what transpired beyond the scenes prior to Wednesday’s matinee at Dallas.

The seven-time All Star will be held out until a deal comes through. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that the Spurs are “confident” that a trade partner for the veteran big man can be found, and that buyout talks are currently out of the way.

San Antonio, one of the campaign’s biggest surprises at 18-15, are clearly pivoting towards a rebuild centered around their young core. While LMA has been one of the league’s most consistent stars over the last decade, the steep decline in his production has made him expendable. With career norms of 19.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, this season has seen his numbers plummet hard, only tallying a relatively measly 13.7/4.5 line.

While Aldridge is 35, his skillset still makes him valuable. That, combined with his enormous playoff experience, figures to help a lot of contenders who can use his scoring and perimeter shooting.

Miami maximizes championship window

Miami receives: Aldridge, F Rudy Gay, future 2nd-round pick

San Antonio receives: F/C Kelly Olynyk, F Andre Iguodala, F/C Precious Achiuwa, F Moe Harkless

The Heat have targeted Aldridge since last season, when the Spurs were allegedly considering liquidating their veterans. The opportunity has now presented itself to Miami, where the veteran scorer can help boost their 25th-ranked offense. Olynyk has been a target of detractors for a while now with his inconsistent play and middling defense. LMA figures to seamlessly fit with the Heat, where he and Bam Adebayo can combine to intimidate smaller frontcourts.

Rudy Gay provides Erik Spoelstra with a tweener that he can use to diversify his perimeter attack, akin to Jae Crowder last season. Alas, the veteran scorer is nothing to scoff at on defense, possessing a league-best 99.0 defensive rating.

On the flip side, the compelling part that moves the needle for the Spurs is rookie Precious Achiuwa. The 20th pick out of Memphis has substantial upside. While quite undersized, his motor on defense and athleticism fits the stylistic shift of the new Spurs, where pace and penetration are premium.

While Olynyk and Iguodala seem like mere salary fillers, both veterans can help the Silver and Black in their playoff pursuit. Pop has a penchant for playmaking bigs, a role that caters well to Olynyk’s skillset. Iguodala gives San Antonio a veteran voice and a tremendous defender who can fill Gay’s role and play multiple positions.

Cap relief, young prospect prompts Orlando retool

Orlando receives: Aldridge, G Lonnie Walker IV, future 1st-round pick

San Antonio receives: F Aaron Gordon, C Mo Bamba

Aaron Gordon’s magic in Orlando is starting to fizzle out. In that case, rerouting him to San Antonio to rebuild again, given their mediocrity in the present, will net them assets to build around.

In essence, Aldridge serves no real purpose in Orlando, save for the cap relief because of his expiring contract. However, Lonnie Walker IV has great upside with his perimeter stroke, athleticism and defense. At his best, he can be a two-way volume scorer who is only starting to scratch his surface. While his numbers have been limited so far, his opportunities have been similarly marginal. A bigger role may suit him well in order to unlock his potential.

For the Spurs brass, the still-25-year-old fits the timeline of the young core. Not only that, but the playstyle of Gordon matches well with the direction that Pop and co. are taking. Mo Bamba, who has been barely used, is a freak of nature who has unicorn potential. Boasting physical gifts that gives him great upside on defense, as well as a surprising perimeter stroke, he may be the Spurs’ next big reclamation project.

Win-now Boston swap bigs

Boston receives: Aldridge

San Antonio receives: C Tristan Thompson, future 2nd-round pick

Even Danny Ainge thinks this Celtics team is not geared to win a chip. Since Al Horford left Boston, the squad has been left reeling in the frontcourt. While perimeter depth and individual shot creation mainly powers the C’s offense, having a proven scorer at the 5 like LaMarcus Aldridge will help bail the team out in spurts.

Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson have held the fort passably so far, but their offensive limitations stagnate their attack at times. Though LMA is not much of a defender, Boston’s army of perimeter stoppers will mask his struggles on D. Boston already lacks natural playmakers. To compensate, their shot creation should be more unpredictable.

Meanwhile, San Antonio can certainly use someone like Thompson. Now playing small-ball exclusively, the Spurs are vulnerable on the boards. Starter Jakob Poeltl is a defensive menace, but is foul-prone. Thompson will help retain their defensive intensity with their second-unit, which is perennially one of the league’s best. A future 2nd-round pick will help Boston outlast other suitors for LMA.

San Antonio plays to Sam Presti’s cards

Oklahoma City receives: LaMarcus Aldridge, future 1st-round pick

San Antonio receives: Al Horford, future 2nd-round pick

Not a lot of teams would be willing to take on Horford’s albatross contract, but San Antonio makes sense as a landing spot for the versatile veteran. The Spurs are not a free agent hub, and they are not headed towards a tanking rebuild. Netting Horford fits the team like a glove. With a mix of shooting, defense, mobility and basketball IQ, the five-time All Star makes for a great fit next to their swarm of athletic guards and wings.

In typical Sam Presti fashion, the key here is to acquire draft picks. A first-round pick to add to their coveted draft collection will accelerate their strategic rebuild even more without giving up a prospect on their squad. Al Horford is clearly only there for a playing-mentor role. As it is hard to move his contract, Oklahoma City should jump on the Spurs’ plan to remain competitive.

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