Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge Has Trade Value—It’s A Matter Of Finding It

Before the San Antonio Spurs started the season at 7-14, LaMarcus Aldridge’s partially guaranteed salary for 2020-21 was fully guaranteed. It wasn’t a surprise, as the organization had rewarded loyal members of the franchise before, including a three-year deal for Pau Gasol in 2017 when he opted out of his original contract. Guaranteeing Aldridge’s money removed future speculation—at the time—and kept him a Spur in a situation that worked well.

Well, with the aforementioned record, the Spurs’ foundation has taken its most significant hit yet, which changes everything. They survived the 2018-19 season, post-Kawhi Leonard trade, and nearly advanced to the second round of the playoffs, although for the first time since 1996-97, there is a threat of missing the postseason.

The Spurs never tear it down. They fell into Tim Duncan in 1997, after David Robinson missed most of ‘96-97 with an injury. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were selected later in their respective drafts and became stars. Leonard even had an unexpected rise to briefly take over after Duncan’s retirement, before Aldridge took over and DeMar DeRozan followed via trade.

If the deconstruction of the Spurs arrives before the trade deadline, DeRozan, on a player option for 2020-21, could be first. Aldridge should not be far behind, though, as an aging veteran who bolsters a contender’s frontcourt.

Of course, any team that takes the six-time All-Star must fit his $26 million salary this season and $24 million next season. In always seeking cap flexibility, teams may not want to restrict their payroll with an expensive 34-year-old big man. But if someone believes his scoring touch will remain through 2020-21 and impact a playoff race, as he still averages 18.9 points per game, perhaps San Antonio finds a suitor.

HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina recently asked NBA executives what Aldridge’s trade value is, and Denver, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento were all mentioned as potential destinations. No matter which player pieces they offer, the real value comes from draft compensation, which the Spurs can use to find the next pieces towards their inevitable retooling. The players in place, like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV, are a start, but nowhere near the finish line.

Take the Suns, for example, who can offer Tyler Johnson and Aron Baynes. At 9-10, if they think competing for a Western Conference playoff spot is realistic, sending a protected first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick (2020 and 2021 second-rounders are headed elsewhere) to the Spurs is viable.

Returning to the Trail Blazers is a fascinating alternative. Aldridge can start the tail-end of his career in the city where it all began and re-team with Damian Lillard. To make that scenario happen, Kent Bazemore’s $19.26 million and the injured-but-young Zach Collins can match up. Portland doesn’t have a second-round pick until 2022, which could work as a sweetener.

It hinges on San Antonio’s willingness to accept their current state. They traded a superstar 17 months ago, yes, but under forced circumstances. Now, this is optional and an indication of another new, more permanent direction for this dynastic organization. That starts with seeking trade interest in the roster’s foundation pieces, headlined by Aldridge.

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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 o...