Heading into a summer full of uncertainty, nothing should be off the table for the San Antonio Spurs, including trading star big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
Even before the NBA season was put on hold, the San Antonio Spurs were hurtling toward one of the most crucial offseasons in recent memory. They were on the outside of the playoffs looking in, their record-tying streak of post-season appearances was in serious jeopardy.
The Spurs decided, as they often had in years past, to avoid making any big mid-season moves. They held out of the trade deadline excitement and their only move was to finally bring an end to the disastrous DeMarre Carroll signing.
Over the summer the Spurs front office will have to carefully evaluate their options. They’ll have to decide how to utilize their highest draft pick in over two decades, debate the merits of offering extensions to a key star and role player, and make every attempt possible to positively shape the roster for the future.
San Antonio is entering uncharted territory. Throughout their history, even dating back to the ABA days, they have never missed the playoffs in back to back years. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but that’s a real possibility if drastic steps aren’t taken.
The only thing worse than missing the playoffs in back to back years would be doing so without a defined plan in place. Many fans have called for a full-scale rebuild, preferring that the team build around its promising youngsters rather than continue to acquire mid-level veterans in an attempt to slide into the playoffs as a low seed.
One major step the team could take to position itself for the future would be to trade away star big man LaMarcus Aldridge. Here are a few reasons why that could be the right move for San Antonio.
Next: His contract
A star on an expiring deal
LaMarcus had his deal fully guaranteed in the fall, he’s now owed the full sum of his $24 million dollar deal next year. He will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021.
A seasoned veteran on an expiring deal is exactly the kind of asset a team with title aspirations could chase after. We saw how the mid-season acquisition of Marc Gasol ultimately led the Toronto Raptors to success. Other teams could try to replicate that with Aldridge.
Aldridge’s name has come up in trade rumors before. At this year’s deadline, he was linked to both the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers. Of the two, Miami seems to be the more likely destination for the big Texan at this point.
Miami hasn’t been shy about their intentions. Their mid-season deal for Andre Iguodala made it clear that the Heat are gunning for a title and they want it now. They’re still a piece or two short of competing with the likes of the Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee Bucks. Aldridge could be the final piece they need to get them over the hump and back to the Finals.
Goran Dragic is in the last year of his contract if Miami decides to let him walk away this summer that would automatically free up close to $20 million in cap flexibility. Pat Riley is one of the most creative and ambitious talent chasers in the game, if he sincerely wants Aldridge in a Heat uniform it won’t take too much creative thinking for him to find a way to bring him to South Beach.
Aldridge has been a key part of the Spurs since he arrived in San Antonio in the summer of 2015. But as he continues to age his future with the team becomes less and less clear. He’s a stabilizing veteran presence, but the Spurs could be better off moving him before or during next season rather than potentially seeing him leave for nothing in the summer of 2021.
Next: He can fit in anywhere
The evolution of LaMarcus Aldridge
Of the few positive surprises we saw from the Spurs this year, the most shocking was LMA’s evolution from a primarily mid-range scorer to a legitimate deep threat. After all these years, Aldridge finally stepped back behind the arc and found success from 3-point range.
After declining to shoot the three for much of his career, Aldridge was on pace to shatter his previous 3-point totals. Coming into this year he had shot just 206 3-pointers with the Spurs, he was on pace to shoot 243 before the season was suspended.
He was incredibly accurate too! LaMarcus was canning an impressive 39 percent of his 3-point attempts. He was right up there with Bryn Forbes, Trey Lyles, and Patty Mills as one of the Spurs’ most valuable deep threats.
The evolution of his game had ripple effects across the entire Spurs offense that were instantly apparent. Wider driving lanes and increased room in the mid-range immediately benefitted slashers like Dejounte Murray and DeMar DeRozan.
No one benefitted more from Aldridge stepping back more than DeRozan. It’s no coincidence that shortly after LaMarcus started shooting three’s, DeRozan took home his only Western Conference Player of the Week award of the season.
"It makes the game a lot easier for me." – that's DeRozan talking about how his great roll coincides with Aldridge's emergence as a perimeter threat.
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 13, 2020
He’s still got his touch from the post and mid-range, but it’s his evolution as a legitimate 3-point threat that really took Aldridge’s value to the next level. With this final piece of his offense finally on full display, he can really be plugged into nearly any offense in the league and find success.
Prior to this season, opposing teams may have been hesitant to trade for him due to his resistance to shooting from deep. With that final barrier removed, it’s the perfect time for San Antonio to capitalize on his high value on the trade market.
Next: Freeing up cap space for a rising star
Opening roster and cap space to chase Christian Wood
One of the most surprising storylines from the NBA post-trade deadline was Christian Wood‘s evolution from a solid role player to rising star for the Detroit Pistons. After bouncing around the league for much of his career, Wood had grown into a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate this year.
San Antonio, and almost every team with the potential to have sizeable cap space, should be chasing Christian Wood this summer. The Spurs got a front-row seat to witness what Wood could do when he tore through them back in early December.
Wood ripped through the Spurs defense, piling up 28 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes of play. He showed off his dangerous game from deep, going two for three from behind the arc, and pummeled the Spurs inside.
More from Air Alamo
- San Antonio Spurs: How Spurs stack up against the best teams in the West
- San Antonio Spurs: 3 Games postponed in wake of positive COVID tests
- Andre Drummond is everything the San Antonio Spurs don’t need right now
- San Antonio Spurs: White’s return to form skyrockets Spurs potential
- San Antonio Spurs: Four trade partners to watch for as deadline nears
Over the final few games of the season, Wood showed his star potential on a nightly basis. In the final eight games, Wood played at an All-Star level averaging 24.8 points and 9.4 rebounds a night.
His floor spacing ability would allow the Spurs to play him with Jakob Poeltl, giving San Antonio a dangerous frontcourt combination. Add in the up and coming Luka Samanic and San Antonio could soon have a promising group of young big men to pair with their impressive group of guards.
San Antonio won’t be the only team vying for Wood’s talents this summer. He’s an unrestricted free agent entering the open market at the perfect time. It’s a lighter than usual free-agent class and he’s one of the most attractive talents out there. He will have no shortage of suitors. It’s unlikely that the Spurs would be able to offer him the deal and playing time he surely wants with Aldridge clogging up their books and roster.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been a stabilizing force for the San Antonio Spurs since he arrived. He’s helped the organization navigate the end of the Big Three era, the Kawhi Leonard trade saga, and now one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory. But in order for the Spurs to move into the future they will have to let the past, and Aldridge, go.