Would the Spurs Be Crazy to Trade LaMarcus Aldridge?
Shelburne's sources tell her the Spurs hope to land a top-10 spot in this evening's NBA Draft. The equally reliable Sam Amico of Amico Hoops reports the deal might originate in northern Cali.
#Spurs said to be dangling LaMarcus Aldridge in hopes of landing top-10 draft pick. "Watch out for the #Kings," one exec tells AmicoHoops.
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) June 22, 2017
There are a handful of good reasons for the Spurs to pull the trigger, and just as many bad.
Pro: Aldridge Is Still Good
Last season, Aldridge was a nERD darling.
As a refresher, nERD is numberFire's proprietary player ranking that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency. The league average is 0, and in 2016-17, Aldridge finished with a 5.5. nERD. That was good for 36th in the NBA and 5th among power forwards.
So according to our metrics, LMA was more efficient than the likes of Marc Gasol (5.4), C.J. McCollum (4.6), Klay Thompson (4.5), and Paul Millsap (3.5). Considering that last season, the top nERD score for a rookie was Joel Embiid's 0.7, it's doubtful San Antonio will get Aldridge-like efficiency in the Draft.
Con: Aldridge Is Getting Worse
If we disregard his rookie year in which he played in 66 games -- and started only 22 -- a whole heap of Aldridge's traditional and advanced numbers for 2016-17 were wayyyyy down, and some of them were the worst of his career.
|Points||Total Reb.||Defensive Reb.||Shooting %||Offensive Box Plus/Minus||Defensive Rebound %||PER|
Granted, most teams would be thrilled if their starting four racked up a nightly 17/7, but for Aldridge, it's all about meeting expectations. The Spurs brought him in to replace the irreplaceable Tim Duncan, believing that the former Trail Blazer could match his Portland averages of 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Pro: Aldridge Could Be Gone
After the 2017-18 season, Aldridge can opt out of his contract. If he opts in, he'll become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and there's no guarantee he'll want to re-sign with the Spurs.
Then again, there's no guarantee the Spurs will want to re-sign him.
Last month, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford told ESPN, "There's a point in time that we'll have to address what's next. At that time, we'll deal with it. As you build a team, you make decisions along the way."
Sounds like a divorce is imminent. The question is, who files first?
Con: If He's Gone, Who Replaces Him?
Let's pretend Sacramento agrees to swap the fifth pick in the Draft for Aldridge. Logic would dictate that the Spurs select a power forward, but for all of this draft's depth, there aren't any potential studs at the four spot.
Arizona's Lauri Markkanen? A nice stretch four, but not ready for prime time.
Wake Forest's John Collins? He could be a good role player...someday. No way he starts for this Spurs team.
Kentucky's Bam Adebayo? Plenty of potential, iffy medical reports.
Point being, there aren't any LaMarcus Aldridges in the lottery.
Pro: Keeping Up With the Warriors
With Aldridge in the lineup for 72 games, the Spurs finished second in the Western Conference with a record of 61-21, just six games behind the Golden State Warriors.
Con: Why Bother Keeping Up With the Warriors?
With Aldridge in the lineup for four games, the Spurs were swept out of the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors.
All of which begs the question, can the Spurs put enough around Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard to get past the mighty Dubs?
Well, the fact that Pau Gasol is going to likely decline his $16.2 million player option will give San Antonio some wiggle room in terms of signing free agents, but there isn't a free agent forward on the market who can deliver Aldridge-like numbers. (Before you say Paul Millsap, remember that Millsap's 2016-17 nERD was way worse than Aldridge's, plus he's a year older.)
But here's the thing: The Warriors are going to win the 2017-18 NBA Championship...or so says Odds Shark, who lists them as a massive favorite over Cleveland...and then Boston...and then San Antonio.
So it's possible that the Spurs' thinking is something along the lines of, Aldridge will gone after either this season or the next, and the Warriors are going to be scary for at least two more seasons, so why not start planning for 2019-20?
Not a bad idea. The San Antonio Spurs are rarely wrong, so whichever direction they choose, it'll probably be the right one.