Jan 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs will soon be parting ways with their star big man
It isn’t often that the San Antonio Spurs make headlines. The most low-key franchise in the NBA, the Spurs are notoriously tight-lipped and rarely make in-season trades. Both of these factors combined to make their recent announcement quite a surprise for Spurs fans.
Before the Spurs and Mavericks tipped off on Wednesday night, Gregg Popovich surprised Spurs fans by announcing that the team would be parting ways with LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge joined the Spurs in the summer of 2015 as the biggest free-agent signing in franchise history but his time in San Antonio has come to an end.
The rise of Jakob Poeltl as one of the best defensive big men in the NBA and the desire to free up more minutes for the up-and-coming Luka Samanic could have both played a part in the organization’s decision to part ways with Aldridge. In any case, the Spurs will use the time between now and the trade deadline on March 25th to find a new home for Aldridge.
Aldridge isn’t the player he once was and consequently, the Spurs shouldn’t expect to get too much in return. This move is all about trying to find the middle ground between sending Aldridge to a competitive team while still bringing back some combination of picks and/or players that the Spurs can use to further their rebuild. Here are a few options for what that could look like.
Next: Sacramento Kings
Feb 8, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich hugs Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes (40) before the game at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs flip LaMarcus Aldridge for Harrison Barnes
If the San Antonio Spurs want to add a player who could help them now and in the coming years, the Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes could be an intriguing option.
After sniffing around the playoffs the past two seasons, the Kings are back near the bottom of the Western Conference this season. They started off decently but plummeted just before the All-Star break, losing 10 of their last 13 games.
All of this has made Harrison Barnes very available. He’s been quietly having an impressive season for the Kings, averaging 16.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while hitting almost 40 percent of his three-point attempts.
Trading for Barnes wouldn’t just help the Spurs this season, this is a player that San Antonio could really build around. He’s proven to be a versatile defender and reliable spot-up shooter from the forward position, exactly the kind of player that would pair well with Jakob Poeltl.
Some fans might balk at the idea of giving up both Lonnie Walker and a future first-round pick but that’s likely to be the going price for a player like Barnes when the other main ingredient in the trade is Aldridge, who doesn’t do much for the Kings this season and would likely be bought out.
With Rudy Gay approaching the end of his contract, the Spurs are going to need frontcourt help soon. That could come in the form of Luka Samanic but Barnes would add depth and veteran experience to a team that could soon be lacking in that department.
Next: New York Knicks
Mar 2, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox II (20) shoots the ball while defended by San Antonio Spurs forward Drew Eubanks (14) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs give Tom Thibodeau another veteran to build around
Tom Thibodeau had an all-time quote on Wednesday when he announced that he had a “strong bias towards good players.” Credit to Thibs, having a preference for good players is a good strategy to stand by. It’s that kind of innovative forward-thinking that has helped the Knicks insert themselves into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference.
New York already has an impressive big man in first-time All-Star Julius Randle, but we all know about Thibs’ affinity for good players and veterans. And while Aldridge isn’t the spring chicken he used to be, he’s still got some gas left in the tank and I think Thibs could bring it out of him.
It shouldn’t take much to get Kevin Knox from the Knicks. His role in New York has steadily decreased since his rookie season and he seems to pop up all the time when the Knicks name is thrown around in trade rumors. His time there hasn’t exactly been a success so you can’t really blame New York for looking to move on.
If there is a team in the league who can help the potential that everyone saw in him after his lone season at Kentucky, it’s the Spurs. They’ve got one of the best player development programs in the league and despite his slow decline in production, San Antonio shouldn’t be dissuaded out of trading for Knox.
He’s been on one of the worst teams in the league for the first two seasons of his career and has had to deal with a revolving door of coaches and front office members as well. And he’s done it all in the largest media market in the NBA. That doesn’t exactly make for a smooth welcome to the NBA.
Contrast that to the Spurs who have been the model of consistency for over two decades. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to spread their wings. This could be Knox’s opportunity to do just that.
Next: Miami Heat
Jan 19, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) shoots over Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard (0) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs pick up another 2020 first-round draft pick from Miami
The always active Miami Heat have already been linked to the San Antonio Spurs as we approach the trade deadline, would they be a good fit for LaMarcus Aldridge? Admittedly, most of the talk around the Heat and the Spurs has been centered around Rudy Gay but maybe the Spurs could slip Aldridge into the mix as well.
A deal like this makes a lot of sense for Miami. They don’t need Aldridge and Gay to play huge minutes but adding two seasoned veterans to their frontcourt would give them the depth they need for another playoff run. The fact that the two will both be unrestricted free agents this summer helps Pat Riley clear up his books to go after whomever he wants in a few months as well.
The main attraction here for the Spurs is Precious Achiuwa. I had mixed feelings about Achiuwa going into the draft but mainly because I didn’t think the Spurs should use the 11th overall pick on him. If they can pick him up here for Gay, Aldridge, and a future first I’m all for it.
One of the most athletic players in his draft class, Achiuwa has the talent to dominate on the defensive end of the floor as a small-ball center who is also comfortable switching onto guards and wings. His lack of perimeter shooting ability could make a fit with Poeltl difficult but he could also thrive as a center in lineups where he and Luka Samanic share the floor. Pairing those two together could be a dynamic frontcourt of the future for San Antonio.
Andre Iguodala is only included in this deal to make the salaries work and would likely be bought out or traded again, although I wouldn’t be opposed to the Spurs keeping him around in a mentorship role for their cadre of young wings. Kelly Olynyk would provide some floor spacing through the end of the season and the Spurs could simply let him walk in free agency. I have no interest in having Meyers Leonard anywhere near the Spurs. Trade for him and then release him.
The San Antonio Spurs haven’t made an in-season trade since 2014 so what’s coming down the pipe is certainly going to be a change from the trade deadline behavior we’ve seen in recent years. Stay tuned, Spurs fans. Watching this play out should be interesting.