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San Antonio Spurs: What if Blazers ‘big trade’ was for LaMarcus Aldridge?

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PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 13: Damian Lillard #0 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trailblazers pose for a portrait on January 13, 2014 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 13: Damian Lillard #0 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trailblazers pose for a portrait on January 13, 2014 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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A theory on if the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers actually spoke about LaMarcus Aldridge in the 2017 offseason.

Remember how LaMarcus Aldridge asked Damian Lillard to reach out to Portland Trail Blazers management on a return to the team in 2017? That obviously did not come to fruition, as Aldridge signed a contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs and became the team’s focal point on offense.

However, here’s a theory on this situation: what if the Spurs and Blazers actually discussed a deal for Aldridge before the 2017 NBA Draft?

On a recent episode of the Dwight and Aaron Show (h/t SLAM Online), Blazers president Neil Olshey said the franchise worked on a “big trade” last offseason that would have sent draft picks to “the other team.”

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“There are a lot of pitfalls to [committing to draft prospects]. One of the scary things about those commitments is that it takes away your flexibility.

“We had an instance last year where there were opportunities to commit to guys, and we were reluctant to do it.

“And as it turned out, we were involved in potentially a big trade that would have conveyed multiple draft picks to the other team.

“And we wouldn’t have been able to pursue that opportunity if we had given our word to a player, his family and an agent.”

Olshey provided no indication on if these talks happened with San Antonio, but if they were before the draft — and the Spurs apparently had Aldridge on the trade block around this time — did these teams speak? If so, just how close were they?

The Blazers entered the 2017 Draft with the No. 15 and 20 overall picks, which were used to move to No. 10 and select Zach Collins from Gonzaga. Did these draft-choices almost go to the Spurs?

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It’s a theory that connects everything together, but 28 other teams could have approached Olshey for a “big trade,” so it’s impossible to know. Hypothetically, what if a deal was close?

At No. 15 and 20, respectively, went Justin Jackson and Harry Giles to the Sacramento Kings. Jackson had a quiet campaign while Giles was redshirted for previous knee injuries in high school and college. The Spurs may not have received both No. 15 and 20 (Aldridge was on a one-year deal with a player option at the time), but it’s fair to assume they could get the higher selection.

San Antonio was actually linked to Kyle Kuzma, who went 27th to the Los Angeles Lakers (two spots before the Spurs took Derrick White). According to NBA writer Andrew Ungvari, Kuzma’s trailer said the Silver and Black were “really interested” in the now NBA All-Rookie First Teamer. Would this have been the pick at 15 or 20?

Kuzma’s trainer, on the other team he thought might have drafted Kyle. pic.twitter.com/Mc2pxGBXOK

— Andrew Ungvari (@DrewUnga) December 29, 2017

The Spurs also worked out Josh Hart, another first-round pick by the Lakers. He went one pick after White.

Aside from the draft-pick scenario, if the Spurs did trade Aldridge, how deep in the trenches of the West’s cellar would they be? Without Kawhi Leonard for all but nine games, it’s possible, if not a guarantee, that they miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1996-97 season and enter the lottery.

For the Blazers, they may have had someone to match up against Anthony Davis in the playoffs. The New Orleans Pelicans pulled off arguably the surprise of the postseason, with a sweep of Portland in the opening round.

Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: After the lottery

There are plenty of variables in a hypothetical Aldridge-to-Portland trade, and it’s almost scary to think of for Spurs fans, who potentially would have endured a disastrous season. It’s only a “what if” at this point, but the same can’t be said about a Leonard trade this summer.

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