LaMarcus Aldridge's playing days with the San Antonio Spurs are over as the two sides mutually agreed to part ways last week. Now, San Antonio is looking for a new home for the veteran big man. The Spurs are exploring trade options for Aldridge, but it is unclear who the suitors are or what they might ask for in return. That the Spurs are willing to let him go despite having a genuine chance at making the postseason is not encouraging. If he is ultimately bought out by the Spurs, the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers are expected to be leading suitors, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The Heat, Celtics, and Blazers could all use Aldridge's size, shooting and floor spacing off the bench for the upcoming playoff push. In Boston, he would bolster a big man rotation that already includes Tristan Thompson, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. In Miami, he would complement the trio of Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and rookie Precious Achiuwa. As for Portland, Aldridge spent the first nine years of his career there, and enjoyed some serious success with the franchise. So, a reunion with the Blazers would make some sense, especially since Aldridge already has familiarity with stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and head coach Terry Stotts. Plus, given the frontcourt injury issues they're dealing with in Portland, there might be more on-court opportunity for Aldridge there.
Aldridge, 35, has been with the Spurs since 2015 but was set to become a free agent this offseason. He is averaging only 13.7 points per game, the fewest he's scored since his rookie season, and only 4.5 rebounds per game, a career-low. He's lost a step, or two, over the course of his career, but he could still potentially contribute to a contending team in a reduced role.
"LaMarcus is not with the team," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement last week. "He's healthy, in that respect, but we've mutually agreed to work out some opportunities for him and that'll be elsewhere. So, he won't be with the team moving forward. He's been a great teammate. There was no problem there. We just think this is a win-win for both LaMarcus and for the club. So, when an opportunity arises, that'll be up to management, his agent, you know, sort of thing. We'll all move forward.
"He's been a great teammate. He's done everything we've asked. And at this point, we'd just like to find something that will work for him as much as for our club, because he deserves that."
Aldridge nearly left the Spurs after the 2016-17 season. He asked for a trade, but eventually settled his differences with Popovich and ultimately signed a contract extension in San Antonio. This time, however, his time with the Spurs really is up. Lineups featuring Aldridge have struggled this season. The Spurs have been 8.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench as their success this season has been driven largely by their bench lineups. The Spurs currently sit seventh in the Western Conference playoff picture with a 19-16 overall record.
Aldridge's primary skill is shooting, and shooting tends to age well. If Aldridge can find the right support system moving forward, he could still be a viable bench option for a contender. Whichever team ultimately acquires him will look to protect him defensively and also take advantage of that shooting moving forward.