Prior to the start of Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters that the team has mutually agreed to depart from LaMarcus Aldridge. The two sides will work together in order to find a trade partner in the coming days. If not, it would cost San Antonio $8.5 million to buy out the remainder of his contract. The current deadline for buying out players is March 25th.
Aldridge, 35, has suffered a three-week absence due to hip flexor soreness. When on the court, the Spurs have declined to a minus-5.6 net rating with Aldridge. He recently surpassed 35,000 career minutes; sixth among active players.
Here, we discuss five potential fits for the seven-time All-Star:
5. Boston Celtics
Currently one of the few teams with a trade exception large enough to deal for Aldridge, the Celtics could use another veteran piece on their roster. Still, the obvious barrier would be finding a balance of playing time with a front court that already consists of Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams.
Aldridge has a similar style of play to a former Celtic in Al Horford, who did not live up to expectations during his three seasons with the team. Still, as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and other teams getting progressively better, Boston could be eyeing any advantage that comes their way.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
In the scenario where the Spurs and Aldridge undergo a buyout, the Lakers could be a potential suitor. Recent reports indicate that the Lakers will pursue the addition of a big man prior to the Trade Deadline on March 25th. The current offensive play of Marc Gasol and defensive limitations of Montrezl Harrell leave some wondering whether the Lakers can keep their heads above water while Anthony Davis is sidelined with injuries.
This season, Gasol is averaging 4.8 points per game across 20 minutes per contest. There is a clear demand for an upgrade in the front court, and the addition of Aldridge would at least be a temporary fix for the time being.
3. Toronto Raptors
In order for the Raptors to be considered legitimate contenders for Aldridge, they would first need to move on from Kyle Lowry. Still, there is confidence from Lowry’s camp that he will not remain with Toronto past the Trade Deadline.
Currently viewed as understaffed in their front court, the Raptors could use the addition of Aldridge. They are smaller in size, and would likely place shooters around Aldridge to open up the floor on the offensive end. Once again, this deal depends on the status of Lowry and how patient San Antonio will be to move on from their veteran forward.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Much like the Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers become contenders to sign Aldridge if he is bought out by the Spurs. Despite Al Horford finding little success with the team, Aldridge would make as a complementary piece for Ben Simmons within a smaller rotation.
Dwight Howard has been utilized properly with the 76ers, but doesn’t possess the ability to shoot from the outside like Aldridge does. Philadelphia is already at the top of the Eastern Conference, but the addition of Aldridge only increases their odds to make noise in the playoffs.
1. Miami Heat
Back in 2015, Miami Heat Team President Pat Riley attempted to recruit Aldridge as a free agent. Fast forward to 2021, and the Heat could be a legitimate trade partner for the veteran forward. A trade package would likely include Kelly Olynyk, and it’s up for debate on how much of an upgrade Aldridge would be at the front court.
The Heat’s current roster is structured around one-year deals, as they were planning to recruit Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Anteokounmpo prior to him signing a five-year, $228 million extension. If Miami believes that the addition of Aldridge benefits their chances in the upcoming playoffs, then the odds are likely in their favor.