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San Antonio Spurs: What if LaMarcus Aldridge was traded at the NBA Draft?

By Rob Wolkenbrod
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 27: LaMarcus Aldridge
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 27: LaMarcus Aldridge
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San Antonio Spurs, NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 27: LaMarcus Aldridge
San Antonio Spurs, NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 27: LaMarcus Aldridge

If the San Antonio Spurs traded LaMarcus Aldridge at the 2017 NBA Draft, what could have developed?

The San Antonio Spurs’ offseason looks like it’s almost over. As of Thursday, it’s possible the team signs Andrew Bogut, a free-agent center, that’s coming off a season-ending leg injury. This happened in his first game with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This wasn’t the only transaction around a big man the Spurs were involved in, however. Around the 2017 NBA Draft, LaMarcus Aldridge was reportedly on the trade block, with a top-10 pick in the selection show as a desired return.

Of course, nothing happened, as Aldridge is still a Spur. His name hasn’t been mentioned in trade rumors since, with his spot on the 2017-18 roster looking confirmed. That goes along with offseason moves made, too, with Rudy Gay, Joffrey Lauvergne and Brandon Paul as the players the organization brought in. None are contenders to the Texas product’s starting spot at power forward, and will be featured at other positions or as a backup.

With the NBA, and any sport, it’s entertaining to look at the “what-if” scenario. It can go for injuries, rumors, trades and other things that did or didn’t materialize. A popular Spurs one is around Kawhi Leonard, and if he never got hurt in the 2017 Western Conference Finals. Would the team have won Game 1 with Leonard? What about the rest of the series?

Let’s apply this concept to Aldridge, and look at if the Spurs decided to trade him at the 2017 NBA Draft. Who would have received him? What about the compensation package? Did it impact the rest of the offseason?

Next: Aldridge is traded to the...

Aldridge is traded to the…

A LaMarcus Aldridge trade would have been difficult to put together, given his $21 million salary for next season and $22 million player option for 2018-19. However, a team like the Sacramento Kings, before it signed George Hill, had the necessary cap space to absorb the $21 million Aldridge is owed.

With Aldridge’s age (32) and contract, the San Antonio Spurs wouldn’t receive a haul for him, but enough to keep it interesting. The Kings had the No. 5 and 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, the latter of which was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.

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What if No. 10 wasn’t dealt to Portland, but to San Antonio? It would be a straight-up deal, with Aldridge headed to Sacramento.

The Kings would get a piece that increases their credibility and adds to a young group of centers and powers forwards. They still got the No. 5 pick, which became De’Aaron Fox, so a point guard would already be there to feed Aldridge, too.

For the Spurs, they get their highest draft pick since moving up in 2011. That resulted in Kawhi Leonard, who became one of the NBA’s best players.

So, San Antonio has a decision to make at No. 10. There are plenty of players available, so who’s the pick?

Next: With the No. 10 pick...

TARRYTOWN, NY – AUGUST 11: Zach Collins
TARRYTOWN, NY – AUGUST 11: Zach Collins

With the No. 10 pick…

The actual No. 10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft became center Zach Collins. As noted, the Sacramento Kings traded this pick to the Portland Trail Blazers.

With Aldridge gone, the San Antonio Spurs have a need at power forward and center, more than ever. David Lee is no longer with the team, Dewayne Dedmon opted out, and Pau Gasol is nearing 40. So, with this pick, a big man is almost a foregone conclusion.

At this spot, Collins and Bam Adebayo are the best big men remaining in the draft. Given how players in this class were valued, Collins would likely be the selection.

Collins spent one season at Gonzaga and wasn’t a consistent starter at center. He mostly came off the bench, as there were senior presences ahead of him. However, as a supersub, the Las Vegas, NV native provided terrific production in just over 17 minutes per game. This included 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

Along with the established defensive presence, Collins still worked the offensive end adequately. His 10 points in 17 minutes per game was a terrific average and made his potential for a full game salivating. Could he pull off 20 points in 34 minutes on the NBA level?

Collins might need one or two years to develop. He would have had Gasol to help, though, and make him into San Antonio’s next great big man.

Next: Open cap space

What would be done with open cap space?

By trading Aldridge for Collins, the San Antonio Spurs would save $18 million on its 2017-18 payroll. That leaves plenty open for 2017 free agency. Maybe not enough to lure a big-name player in, but enough to spread around to boost deals.

What if the Spurs used some of that cash to retain Jonathon Simmons? The organization let him go as a restricted free agent, agreeing to a three-year, $20 million deal with the Orlando Magic. If money was the concern with re-signing or letting him go, then the Spurs could have used a few million to send his way. That’s unless the team had no intention of retaining him, while finding a cheaper replacement.

Signing a veteran power forward would have been wise. Players like Patrick Patterson or Taj Gibson could have worked. Both provide some grit inside, while Patterson has the best shooting stroke of the two. The Oklahoma City Thunder gave him a three-year, $16.4 million deal in the offseason.

Must Read: 25 forgotten players that were on the Spurs

Collins, Gasol, Patterson, and Joffrey Lauvergne could have made up a steady group at power forward and center. The potential talent drop-off from Aldridge to whoever starts at the four spot might be a concern, but it’s difficult to think the Spurs would have signed any of Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, or Paul Millsap to hefty contracts.

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