If things take a turn for the worse for the San Antonio Spurs, who are currently 9-14 this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if LaMarcus Aldridge is put on the trading block. The 34-year-old would be coveted by contending teams and, in a scenario where the playoffs are no longer a realistic option, the Spurs could look to trade Aldridge to add assets in order to bolster a rebuilding effort.
If Aldridge is made available, the destination that makes the most sense is the Portland Trail Blazers. Not only does he make basketball sense for the Blazers, Aldridge has openly talked about returning to Portland.
Why the Blazers Would Trade for LaMarcus Aldridge
The Blazers are in a win-now mode. After making it to the Western Conference Finals last season, Portland has their sights set on a championship. Their recent signing of Carmelo Anthony is further proof that the Blazers are doing all they can to contend this season.
At a disappointing 10-15, the Blazers haven’t been much better than the Spurs. However, they’ve shown recent signs of improvement while winning five of their last eight games. To take the next step, Aldridge could be a logical target for the Blazers.
Portland has a star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Anthony has been a starter since being signed. Hassan Whiteside has started at center this year while Jusuf Nurkic continues his recovery from a broken leg.
If the Blazers trade for Aldridge, the idea would likely be to go with a starting five of Lillard, McCollum, Anthony, Aldridge and Nurkic. If Nurkic is still sidelined, Anthony and Aldridge could slide up a position and Portland would go with Kent Bazemore as their fifth starter.
When the Spurs Would Be Ready to Trade LaMarcus Aldridge
Most seasons, having a 9-14 record would be cause for panic in the Western Conference. However, this year the Spurs are still right in the thick of the playoff race despite their slow start. That’s because only six teams in the West have a winning record. And one of those teams, the Utah Jazz, have lost six of their last eight games.
As it stands, the Spurs are only two games out of the playoffs. San Antonio’s December schedule is relatively easy, especially compared to what they’ll face in January and February. If they can close out this month strong, the postseason could begin to look like a strong possibility. If that happens, the Spurs are unlikely to trade Aldridge and will instead try to make the postseason for the 23rd consecutive season.
But if the Spurs don’t make up ground by the end of December, their chances of making the playoffs will take a big hit. That would be when the Spurs would field offers for Aldridge.
What the Spurs Would Want in Return for LaMarcus Aldridge
First of all, the Blazers would have to be willing to give up Whiteside. The Spurs wouldn’t have much interest in Whiteside the player but his big, expiring contract makes a trade between these two teams possible.
Even though Whiteside has put up impressive stats (15.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 28.1 minutes per game), he’s unlikely to be viewed as long-term fit for the Blazers. Eventually, they will hope that Nurkic will be their center. It’s also likely that the Blazers would view Aldridge as a notable upgrade over Whiteside.
Beyond Whiteside, the Blazers will need to include an asset to incentivize the Spurs to pull the trigger on a trade. One possibility is for Portland to throw in a first round pick. Even a top ten protected first rounder could be enough to entice San Antonio.
The other possibility would be to make it a four-player trade in which the Spurs send Aldridge and Marco Belinelli to the Blazers for Whiteside and Zach Collins. Collins is a 22-year-old big man who was the tenth pick of the 2017 draft. At 6-foot-11, he’s big, mobile, a good athlete and has three-point range.
Currently, Collins is sidelined after having shoulder surgery. It’s possible that he’ll miss the rest of the season, which the Spurs would be able to live with since they wouldn’t be in the playoff race if they’re trading Aldridge.
The next two to three weeks will likely determine if the Spurs decide to become sellers on the trade market. If San Antonio stumbles, they could look to move Aldridge and the Blazers appear to be the most likely trade partner.