The San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge have decided to separate. The 35-year-old will sit out until the Spurs either trade him or the two sides negotiate a buyout of his contract. If a trade is going to be made, the most likely landing spot for Aldridge appears to be the Miami Heat.
The Heat tried to sign him back in 2015 and they were interested in trading for him last year at the trade deadline. Miami could use a talented scoring big man considering their offense is ranked 24th in the league. Coming off of a trip to the NBA Finals, Aldridge being a win-now piece fits their timeline.
Here are a few versions of what an Aldridge trade to the Heat would look like.
Update: This article was written prior to Leonard being traded from the Heat to Thunder. Each trade scenario still works, either without Leonard entirely or a substitute of a non-rotational bench player.
LaMarcus Aldridge for Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard
From San Antonio’s perspective, this would be an easy trade to justify. Kelly Olynyk would be a strong fit behind Jakob Poeltl at center, as the two players have opposite strengths and weaknesses. Poeltl would be the defensive specialist, while Olynyk’s offensive skill and three-point range would add a different look and would be a strong match for the bench unit.
Olynyk isn’t much of a defender and he’s not especially sturdy on the boards but he’s better than any backup center options on the Spurs. He’s also on an expiring contract, so that would keep options open for the Spurs this summer.
Meyers Leonard is out for the season due to shoulder surgery and might have accidentally rage quit his professional basketball career while playing Call of Duty recently. He would be immediately released by the Spurs, as he is also on an expiring deal.
From Miami’s perspective, this trade would have a bit of risk to it. Olynyk has started the last 32 games for the Heat. To do this deal, they would have to be confident that Aldridge could come in and immediately start. While Aldridge is the superior scorer and the superior rim protector, Olynyk is likely better at virtually everything else at this stage of Aldridge’s career.
For the Spurs, there’s very little downside to this trade. Even if Olynyk disappoints, they have other center options to fill in. For the Heat, it’d definitely be a gamble. Olynyk is one of the few playable bigs on their roster. If they trade him away and Aldridge’s decline accelerates, Miami’s chances of repeating as Eastern Conference champions would take a hit.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay for Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard
In this version, Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala get added to the deal. The Heat could possibly prefer this trade because between Aldridge and Gay, they can be confident that they’d get the big man help they need. Gay has proven to be capable of playing power forward in today’s NBA and could even start in Miami. Add in Aldridge and the Heat’s offensive issues could be solved.
The Spurs have targeted Iguodala multiple times over the years. Most notably, in 2017, Iguodala and the Spurs met at midnight right after the start of free agency and San Antonio reportedly offered him a four-year deal. Iguodala eventually re-signed with the Golden State Warriors and the Spurs ended up signing Gay instead.
San Antonio could view Iguodala as the perfect veteran presence for the young core. He’s a very smart player who doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He’d improve the defense and the ball-movement without getting in the way of the youngsters.
However, this trade could have a few problems. First of all, Iguodala is 37 years old and is due more than $17 million next season in the final year of his contract. Unless the Spurs really value his leadership and think he’s the perfect role model for their up-and-coming core, that’d be a challenging contract to swallow. That’s especially true because the Spurs could open up $40-plus million in cap space in the offseason if they don’t take on any more money between now and then.
Second of all, Iguodala is a rotation player for the Heat — so it’s not an automatic that they’d want to deal him. He’s a good fit on a team with championship aspirations. In playoff games, as their roster stands, Miami would likely have Iguodala on the court to close out fourth quarters. While Gay and Aldridge would improve the team’s offensive attack, losing Olynyk’s reliability and Iguodala’s savviness could stop the Heat from agreeing to this trade.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles for Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless (or Avery Bradley)
It’s possible that this trade actually makes the most sense for both teams. For the Spurs, with the emergence of Luka Samanic, it’s unlikely that they would look to re-sign Lyles in the offseason. Neither Maurice Harkless nor Avery Bradley have any money guaranteed after this season.
In theory, adding Lyles to the deal would mitigate some of the risk for the Heat. Lyles has proven to be a competent starter during his time in San Antonio. If worst comes to worst for Miami and Aldridge proves to be washed up, Lyles could hypothetically step in and give them minutes.
In actuality, though, does Lyles hold any real value outside of the Spurs? That’s questionable. It wouldn’t be surprising if adding him to the trade doesn’t move the needle at all for the Heat.
Final Thoughts on Possible Spurs-Heat Trade
While no first round picks will be added to the above trades, it’s possible that a second rounder could be moved.
Which team would be more motivated to make a deal? That’s not clear. The Heat could just wait for the Spurs to potentially buy out Aldridge’s contract, so would they really want to move assets now when they could get him for free in a couple of weeks? Is anything exciting enough in any of these three trades to push the Spurs to finalize the deal? That lack of motivation is another reason why I expect this process to drag out until the trade deadline.