The San Antonio Spurs made waves in the NBA Wednesday evening when Gregg Popovich revealed the team mutually parted ways with LaMarcus Aldridge. The decision isn’t a total surprise, as the seven-time All-Star had recently been regulated to the bench, which is tough for a veteran to swallow after having started over 95 percent of his career games.
The decision leaves a few possibilities open for the Spurs going forward, as they currently have Aldridge signed to a $24 million expiring contract.
As usual, the information surrounding possible moves is tight-lipped, so all we can do is lean on Spurs media and experts to give us an idea of what may come next. As simply put by Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia, the Spurs now have two paths with LaMarcus:
The Spurs have two paths with Aldridge:
1) Explore trades by March 25.2) They could look into a buyout like they've done in the past with Pau Gasol and DeMarre Carroll.
— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 11, 2021
A buyout wouldn’t be ideal, but as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, the Spurs are confident they can find a trade partner for Aldridge’s services perhaps as early as next week. That leads us to the next question: who is most likely to work with the Spurs in a trade?
Who can the San Antonio Spurs work with to unload LaMarcus?
There’s no straightforward answer to this question as of now, but one possible option is the Boston Celtics. They currently have a trade exception to work with, and as Paul Garcia reported, they’re hard-capped, so they would have to send at least two players to the Spurs to make the deal work.
The Celtics have had a disappointing season so far, so they may be inclined to at least listen to an offer involving Aldridge plus a pick or other player(s).
Another team that has a trade exception to use is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Acquiring Aldridge would put them $10 million over the cap but still not to the luxury tax level. Neither Boston nor Oklahoma City is linked to having an interest in a trade for LaMarcus as of yet, but they’d have the means to do so without losing much.
As we wrote about recently, the Orlando Magic may also have interest in the expiring contract of guys like Aldridge and Rudy Gay to free up cap space to rebuild next season. While a deal involving Nikola Vucevic is improbable, there’s always the possibility of getting a third team involved to work something out.
ESPN insider Bobby Marks broke down what exactly it would take to trade for Aldridge on Twitter:
$19M (the minimum sent out in a trade) is the magic number when it comes to an Aldridge trade.
He has $8.5M left of his $24M contract at the time of the trade deadline. https://t.co/M6mz63AkQm
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 11, 2021
The biggest question will be what the Spurs can get from a team willing to give up the value required for an aging veteran. LaMarcus still has plenty to offer teams in a limited role, particularly with offensive spacing and as a reliable scoring option. He has plenty of game left to help a team that needs an extra boost.
The next couple of weeks will be an interesting period for San Antonio as they look to make their first in-season trade since 2014. Stay on your toes, folks.