Earlier this week San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich caught us all by surprise when he announced that the Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge had mutually agreed to part ways. Since then the Spurs have been actively looking for trade partners around the league in the lead-up to the March 25th deadline.
It’s unclear what the future has in store for Aldridge. Several potential teams have been mentioned among trade rumors, including the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, his former team in the Portland Trail Blazers, and other Western Conference teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.
It didn’t take long for San Antonio Spurs fans to begin investigating potential returns for the seven-time All-Star. With how he’s played so far this season the Spurs won’t be commanding a huge haul but they’ll still be able to get a nice return for trading him.
In any deal for Aldridge, the Spurs should be looking for a combination of young, undervalued players, expiring contracts, and draft picks. But more than anything else. the draft picks are key.
San Antonio Spurs need to focus on getting draft picks back for Aldridge
Since 2016 the San Antonio Spurs have been able to build out an impressive young core through the draft. In the first round, they’ve selected Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson, and most recently Devin Vassell. Only Vassell was picked in the lottery, and three of the others (all of whom are now regularly starting for the Spurs) were picked 29th overall. It’s difficult for me to imagine the past five years of drafting going much better and several of those players are still very young and have some serious development to undergo.
The Spurs may be hard-pressed to find a team in the league that would willingly give up a first-round pick for a 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge unless those trades involve more players and potentially more teams. With that in mind, I would expect that the Spurs will be able to find a deal that includes at least one future second-round pick.
While this may not sound ideal as a return for a multi-year All-Star, the 2021 draft class will be particularly loaded with talent to the point that even a mid-second-round pick in that draft could bode very well for the Spurs.
It is becoming increasingly clear in the post-Duncan/Parker/Ginobili era of Spurs basketball that the organization still greatly values player development and the draft in general. This shows up clearly in how stingy the front office has been about trading away picks.
If it weren’t for the trade package that sent Boris Diaw along with the Spurs’ second-round pick in the 2022 draft to Utah in 2016, the Spurs would be the only team in the league to outright own all of their first- and second-round draft picks through 2028 without conditions.
Adding one or more second-round picks in future drafts could, at the very least, give the Spurs even more opportunities to land a sleeper pick, or give them another opportunity to trade up in the draft to land someone set to be picked in the lottery.
While adding role players will be a part of any deal for Aldridge, the San Antonio Spurs should be focused on adding draft picks. And if the players they get back can be traded on for more picks it would help give one of the best drafting teams in the league more bites at the apple.