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Trade Packages and Landing Spots for San Antonio Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterMarch 11, 2021

Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler (22) drives around San Antonio Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

A nearly six-year run between LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs is effectively over as head coach Gregg Popovich announced the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, "The Spurs are engaged on several fronts with potential trades for Aldridge and believe they can find a deal—perhaps even in the next week—and avoid the need to negotiate a contract buyout."

The 35-year-old power forward/center is making $24 million this season, the final year of his contract. Matching that number won't be easy, although there's no financial commitment past this season.

San Antonio recently went 6-2 while Aldridge missed time with hip and quad injuries, proving it doesn't need him to be a focal point. But while he's no longer an All-Star-level big, he has developed into an effective three-point shooter (37.9 percent over the past two years) and is still one of the best mid-range threats in the NBA.

Sticking him at center provides decent rim protection, as well. His opponent field-goal percentage at the basket (59.0 percent) is similar to that of Serge Ibaka (58.8 percent) and Jonas Valanciunas (59.1 percent).

Contending teams will value his experience and leadership, while others may be more interested in his massive expiring deal. Unlike the Detroit Pistons with Blake Griffin, the Spurs should be able to find a trade partner for Aldridge and avoid a buyout.

          

Boston Celtics

Eric Gay/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs Receive: C Tristan Thompson

Boston Celtics Receive: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge

In this swap of Texas big men, the Spurs would get a younger and cheaper option at center. 

Thompson, 29, is a proven defender and rebounder who was the starting center for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their 2016 championship. He's currently putting up 7.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game while shooting 53.1 percent from the field for Boston, starting 29 of his 34 games.

While he's never been an elite shot-blocker, Thompson's primary defensive strength is his ability to switch onto smaller, quicker players on the perimeter. He's under contract at a reasonable $9.7 million next season.

Aldridge would provide better floor-spacing for Boston's guards and wings and is the superior overall offensive player.

On a team that's still pretty young, Aldridge could be a veteran voice in a locker room that's underperformed with a 19-17 record this season. The Celtics could use their $28.5 million trade exception to absorb Aldridge's contract, and sending back Thompson would ensure they stay out of the luxury tax.

           

Chicago Bulls

San Antonio Spurs Receive: F Otto Porter Jr., 2021 second-round pick

Chicago Bulls Receive: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge

Porter's days in Chicago were numbered when the team took Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick of the 2020 NBA draft, and his $28.5 million expiring salary happens to match up nicely with Aldridge's.

The 27-year-old is due back to the Bulls lineup any game now after missing time with back spasms and could be a nice win-now piece for the Spurs.

Averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 40.0 percent from three in his 23.3 minutes per game, Porter could start or come off the bench in Popovich's rotation.

While not a title contender, the Bulls sit just outside the playoff field at 16-18. A new front office should be pushing for the young core to get a taste of the postseason, and adding Aldridge to the frontcourt would certainly help the cause.

Wendell Carter Jr. is still the future at center, although he's battled injuries in all three of his pro seasons. Aldridge would provide insurance at the position while serving as a veteran for the playoff push as the Bulls try to make their first postseason appearance since 2017. 

Originally the second overall pick by the Bulls in 2006 (before a draft-night trade sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers), Aldridge would return to the place his NBA career technically began.

              

Cleveland Cavaliers (before buyout)

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs Receive: C Andre Drummond

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge, 2021 second-round pick

Drummond, like Aldridge, has already agreed to a mutual parting with his current team.

The Cavaliers have committed to Jarrett Allen as their starting center, paving the way for Drummond, 27, to find a new opportunity elsewhere.

Drummond is the far more talented player between the two frontcourt players involved in this deal, putting up big numbers yet again (17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game) while essentially entering the prime of his career. One of the few players the Spurs can match salaries with ($28.8 million compared to $24 million), he is also on an expiring deal.

The Spurs already have Jakob Poeltl at center but have never played him more than 23.4 minutes per night in three years. Drummond would likely become the new starter with Poeltl serving as one of the league's best reserves.

If Popovich could get Drummond to commit on defense, be a willing passer and avoid reckless shots and drives, he'd have a huge upgrade from Aldridge without having to give up much in return.

For Cleveland, protecting future cap space while picking up a second-round pick (the same thing it had to give up for Drummond a year ago) would be a win. Aldridge would then become a buyout candidate with the Cavs likely valuing the roster spot and pick over everything else.

If he's bought out, the Los Angeles Lakers (injury to Anthony Davis), Portland Trail Blazers (injury to Jusuf Nurkic) and Brooklyn Nets (going after every bought-out former All-Star) would all make sense.

            

Miami Heat

San Antonio Spurs Receive: G/F Andre Iguodala, F/C Kelly Olynyk

Miami Heat Receive: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge

The Spurs could turn one rotation veteran into two with the additions of Iguodala and Olynyk, players who should instantly become Popovich favorites.

While Iguodala is likely nearing the end of his career at age 37, he can still defend multiple positions and constantly makes smart plays on offense. His value would be immeasurable in the Spurs locker room, especially since it contains so many young guards and wings.

Olynyk, averaging 10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists as Miami's starting power forward, would help replace Aldridge's outside shooting. He's a career 36.8 percent marksman from three who could share the floor with Poeltl or play center for stretches.

At just 18-18 this season, the Heat could use a boost, especially one that preserves their 2021 cap space.

Aldridge could play alongside Bam Adebayo or serve as the team's backup center. Miami's bench has been awful this season, and a player of Aldridge's quality could immediately raise the level of everyone around him in the second unit.

This would also be the Heat's chance to add an impact player without giving up one of their young stars or future draft picks.

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