The San Antonio Spurs aren’t normally sellers at the NBA Trade Deadline, but this season is a bit different. The Spurs are in the playoff hunt for the No. 8 seed, but the team is struggling and it may not be worth it to make a postseason push. Realistically, the Spurs would have to face one of the Clippers or Lakers in the first round. That’s likely an early exit and only hurts San Antonio’s draft stock not being in the lottery. It’s unheard of in the Gregg Popovich era, but it may be the best move for the future to trade LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan before the deadline. Let’s take a look at the best possible destinations for Aldridge.
Rumors came out that the Heat were interested in both DeRozan and Aldridge. It makes a bit more sense for the Heat to add DeRozan, but Aldridge wouldn’t be a bad get either. Creating a front line of Aldridge and Bam Adebayo would be tough for teams like the Sixers and Bucks to deal with. The Heat have a ton of depth at guard, so dealing a few young pieces wouldn’t set them back. Their depth issue is actually behind Adebayo at center, where the only bigs are Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Meyers Leonard. Adding another All-Star to Jimmy Butler and Bam is the best way the Heat can contend for a title this season.
Aldridge and DeRozan have basically identical salaries and contracts — minus a player option for DeRozan. So a trade for either player will look pretty similar. A couple of players and a first-rounder should get it done. I mentioned in my DeRozan write-up that Kendrick Nunn and Justise Winslow could be involved. Throw in James Johnson’s contract at $15.3 million and it works in the NBA Trade Machine on ESPN. The Spurs get a first and a solid young piece in Nunn. Winslow is also relatively young and on a friendly contract if he’s healthy. Johnson can be deadline fodder next season on an expiring.
A reunion with the Blazers would be something, eh? Portland is in need of big man behind Hassan Whiteside until Jusuf Nurkic can return. Imagine a lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Hassan Whiteside/Jusuf Nurkic. That could make things scary for the Lakers or Clippers if the Blazers end up getting the No. 7 or 8 seed in the West.
The Blazers have about $12-13 million in trade exceptions from Kent Bazemore, Rodney Hood, Jake Layman and Caleb Swanigan. So realistically they shouldn’t have to shed as much salary to make this deal work. Still, it’s not going to be easy. Perhaps dealing Nurkic to the Spurs as an attractive piece along with either a young player and/or pick gets it done. Portland would still maintain that formidable lineup with Aldridge and it wouldn’t cripple the Blazers long-term.
The Bulls are performing below expectations this season, but are still in the playoff chase in the East at 19-30, just 2.0 games back of the Nets. Injuries in the front court have left Chicago with little options at center and Aldridge would fill that void. I’m not sure how Aldridge would fit into Chicago’s long-term plans, since Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen are the front court of the future. Still, Aldridge would form a nice pick-and-roll combo with Zach LaVine, something the Bulls offense could use if the team wants to make the playoffs.
The deal would almost have to include the Bulls first-round pick in 2020. That may not be a lottery pick, but it should land in the teens, which is attractive to San Antonio, which is a strong drafting franchise. Along with the pick, the Bulls can include Kris Dunn’s expiring deal. He’d be a restricted free agent after this season, so the Spurs get a controlled asset. Denzel Valentine is also young and under control on an expiring. Thaddeus Young’s $12.9 million deal the next two seasons makes the salary work out. Young is a good rotation player and the Spurs do well with veteran’s like Young.