The San Antonio Spurs have been surprising a lot of people with their above-average play so far. But despite their relative success, there’s been a glaring issue that doesn’t seem to be getting much better: their frontcourt woes. At the center of those issues, both literally and figuratively, has been LaMarcus Aldridge.
It’s become impossible to ignore how frequently opponents are exploiting Aldridge’s painfully slow closeouts and rotations. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor made note of just that in a recent article, calling Aldridge a “total liability on defense” that shows effort on closeouts that is “abysmal”.
Still, Aldridge’s offense has been enough to keep him in the starting lineup over Jakob Poeltl, who suffers from the opposite issue of being great defensively and almost non-existent offensively. This has led to some rough starts against athletic bigs like Christian Wood, Karl-Anthony Towns, and James Wiseman.
We’ve discussed potential destinations for Aldridge before, but given recent circumstances, the Orlando Magic should be another team to consider dealing for the seven-time All-Star.
After the jump, one way for the Spurs to unload their center while getting some sharpshooting and a backup big man in the process.
Next: The Trade
The Trade between the San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic
In this trade, the San Antonio Spurs would ship off LaMarcus Aldridge and two second-round picks for Evan Fournier and Khem Birch. There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with why the Orlando Magic might want to go ahead and pull the trigger on this deal.
The Magic haven’t made it out of the first round since 2010. They also lost their power forward of the future, Jonathan Isaac, to a knee injury for the rest of the season. On top of that, Aaron Gordon will be missing 4-6 weeks with a severe left ankle sprain. Their drafted rookie forward, Chuma Okeke, also is currently suffering from a bone bruise in his left knee.
Given the hole they have in the frontcourt, might it be worth it for Orlando to plug LaMarcus Aldridge into an offense that’s creeping toward being the worst in the NBA? It might be worth a look. Yes, Evan Fournier has been fantastic for them and is their second-highest scorer this season. Still, whatever the Magic have been doing for the last 10 seasons isn’t getting it done.
Even though they’re getting a multiple-time All-Star, the more alluring aspect of the trade would likely be the two draft picks they’d be getting. The upcoming draft class will be stacked, and Orlando could shake things up with more fresh, raw talent to change the direction the franchise is heading.
In Aldridge, they’d also be getting an exceptional mid-range shooter to join their bottom-third mid-range shooting team in terms of percentage. LaMarcus still has plenty of offense to offer, an area that the Magic is currently 28th in the league so far.
Why would the Spurs be inclined to include two picks along with Aldridge, though?
Next: The Spurs' Motivation
What’s in it for the San Antonio Spurs?
Usually, draft picks are a hot commodity in the Spurs organization. Two of their top franchise players ever were drafted way later than they should’ve been and San Antonio has recently picked up Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, and Derrick White outside of the lottery. But that’s the thing.
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The Spurs have plenty of young talent to build their future around, including Dejounte Murray, Walker, White, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell. Three of those guys are under the age of 23.
Would it be worth giving up a couple of picks to get a proven 3-point shooter in an increasingly 3-point-heavy league?
Evan Fournier is a career 37.5 percent shooter from downtown that shot 40 percent from there last year. With the way the NBA is going, you can never have enough potent outside shooters, as the Spurs just learned the hard way against Memphis in a rough two-game series.
Fourth-year center Khem Birch also can’t be overlooked in this trade.
Birch has only been given 16.2 minutes per game so far in his career, but he’s producing at a rate of 15.4 points and 13.9 rebounds per 100 possessions for Orlando this season. In this scenario, he’d be a backup to Jakob Poeltl, who has been one of the most effective defending centers in the NBA this season.
San Antonio has plenty of youth to build around, so they can afford to give up a couple of picks to get another proven shooter and some value from LaMarcus before he hits the free agent market to likely join a contender for one last hurrah. Is this the best available deal for Aldridge? Maybe not, but the clock is ticking toward the March 25th deadline, and it’s becoming clear the Spurs need to do something soon.