SAN ANTONIO, TX – JANUARY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts after missing a … [+]
The LaMarcus Aldridge era for the San Antonio Spurs stumbled to its conclusion earlier this month, when the team announced that both sides agreed to part ways. It ended a sometimes tumultuous timeline that began in 2015, as Aldridge departed the Portland Trail Blazers for what seemed like his best title opportunity, until it wasn’t.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported shortly after that San Antonio sought a trade for its All-Star big man. Such a deal would see another team take on his lofty eight-figure salary, presumably a playoff contender, for the stretch run. The issue comes to this, however: Aldridge is 35 years old, averages current lows in minutes, scoring and rebounding since his earliest years and makes $24 million. It’s a combination that could mean a buyout is likelier ahead of the end of the month.
It starts with the financials. Trading that much money during the season is no easy task, taking another team to match the $24 million, unless said organization has cap room to absorb some of the money, which most do not. Equaling that salary may be simpler for some teams, but it complicates San Antonio’s task.
On ESPN’s The Jump (h/t Pounding the Rock), Brian Windhorst reported that teams have made offers for Aldridge, but it stems on the Spurs’ willingness to take money beyond this season:
“They have continued to have trade talks. They have offers for him. They could trade LaMarcus by sundown here in San Antonio if they wanted to, but the issue here is are they willing to take back long-term money.”
Windhorst added that he expects the Spurs to not accept a trade, but complete a buyout with Aldridge after the trade deadline.
The Spurs missed their chance to trade Aldridge in 2019-20, when he held a greater role, was one year younger and had an extra year of team control. Diminishing circumstances changed that, so instead of finding draft picks and more absorbable contracts, they will have missed the chance to move him amid a down year.
Yet, it’s also unlike the Spurs to give up on a season. This time, however, head coach Gregg Popovich changed the lineup structure to the evolving NBA style, forcing Aldridge to split time as the man in the middle with Jakob Poeltl.
So, Aldridge will probably leave the Spurs for no return. Eastern Conference playoff teams like Boston and Philadelphia could make sense, and the postseason-hungry New York Knicks area potential fit if they are desperate enough. Perhaps he stays out west and returns to the Trail Blazers to reunite with Damian Lillard.
It’s simply a disappointing end for Aldridge in San Antonio; a marriage that never lived up to expectations. Now, the same is likely to happen for receiving value in return for those years given. The Spurs are not light on young talent, but no team can have too many assets. Unless they decide to assume future money, the outlook for the salary cap and draft picks will remain status quo for the next off-season.
I cover the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and their fluctuating salary-cap situation. For the past decade, I have followed and studied the game of basketball, with knowledge of