Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard mentioned recently that he’d like to play with San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge once again. The two were teammates for three seasons before Aldridge signed with the Spurs in 2015.
Aldridge has also expressed a desire to play with Lillard again in Portland, thus further fueling speculation. He will be a free agent after next season and could leave the Spurs for the Blazers at that point.
Both the Blazers and Spurs have found themselves in a similar situation this season after falling well short of expectations. While disappointing, falling short of expectations could potentially provide a catalyst for change for both teams once the season officially concludes.
For the Spurs, the possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades could force a rebuild. For the Blazers, missing the playoffs after making the Western Conference Finals last season would mark a significant step backwards in the team’s progression.
Portland’s two best players, Lillard and CJ McCollum, are locked up for the next four seasons, however both are nearing their 30s. Aldridge, even at 34, is still a very good player. This season, he’s averaging 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, while shooting 38.9% from three-point range.
Adding Aldridge to their core could maximize the Blazers ceiling and put them in contention again. Meanwhile, a rebuilding San Antonio could look to make moves in hopes of gaining future assets. For those reasons, a trade between the two teams makes a lot of sense for both sides.
What Would a Blazers Trade for LaMarcus Aldridge Look Like?
Portland would need matching salary in order to acquire Aldridge and can do so without moving their key pieces. The framework of a trade could include Rodney Hood, Trevor Ariza and Zach Collins for Aldridge. The trade works financially, however the Spurs would also likely ask for a first round draft pick from the Blazers.
The trade could drastically improve the Blazers. A core of Lillard, McCullum, Jusuf Nurkic and Aldridge may be enough to help the Blazers return to the Western Conference Finals. The move would also have the added benefit of appeasing Lillard.
For San Antonio, a parting of ways with Aldridge seems all but inevitable in the next couple years. Receiving a draft pick, as opposed to having him leave in free agency after next season, would certainly be better than the alternative.
Ariza appears to still hold value around the league as a three-and-D option. While he wouldn’t hold much value to a rebuilding Spurs squad on the court, several playoff teams could be interested. After all, Portland surrendered two second rounders to just to acquire him. San Antonio could look to shop him, with the goal of receiving a similar haul.
Hood appears certain to opt-in to his player option after suffering a season ending injury. The Spurs could either choose to waive him or gauge the trade market for him once healthy.
Collins, a former lottery pick, has yet to find his footing in the NBA due to injuries. His contract would be a necessary inclusion in a deal between the two teams, though Collins could ultimately be more than just salary filler. Still just 22, Collins could reach his potential in San Antonio.
It’s conceivable that San Antonio would prefer Nurkic in a potential Aldridge trade. Nurkic was a highly productive center for the Blazers before suffering a gruesome leg injury last season.
Before his injury, he averaged an impressive 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 blocks in just 27.4 minutes. Assuming Nurkic can return to form, he could be valuable going forward. That said, the Blazers would likely be more willing to give up a protected first round pick than Nurkic.
Will a Trade Between the Spurs and Blazer Actually Take Place?
With news of the season resuming, how the Spurs season ends will determine a lot with regard to how they proceed. It’s also unclear how much interest the Blazers have in a reunion with Aldridge.
Still, should he be put on the trading block in the offseason, Portland would be the ideal trade partner. A combination of short-term contracts, a draft pick and an additional prospect could be the best San Antonio could realistically get for Aldridge.
Getting the best deal should be the Spurs main priority, however doing right by Aldridge should also be taken into account. His signing in 2015 marked the biggest free agent acquisition in team history and he has certainly lived up to expectations.
By trading him back to Portland, it would allow his career to end where it started and possibly even compete for a championship. If Aldridge does become available, it appears like Lillard would prefer for his to team act — and the Spurs need to be ready to take advantage of that opportunity.