The second half of the 2020-21 NBA season officially got underway on Wednesday. Shortly before the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Dallas Mavericks, head coach Gregg Popovich revealed that LaMarcus Aldridge will be away from the team indefinitely.
ESPN’s Tim McMahon reported shortly thereafter that the Spurs are,
“engaged on several fronts with potential trades”
for Alridge. McMahon added that the Spurs think they will ultimately be able to find a trade for the former All-Star. Rather than risking injury by playing as the team seeks a deal, Aldridge has agreed to remain away from the team.
The trade deadline is coming up on March 25. If the Spurs don’t find a trade before then, the team will presumably buy-out the remainder of Aldridge’s contract. The team would prefer to avoid that scenario and recoup something of value in exchange for the 35-year-old, but time will tell.
Aldridge is on the books for $24 million this season, so finding a trade partner likely won’t be easy for the Spurs. Aldridge is in the midst of one of the worst seasons of his career, which surely won’t help his value on the trade market.
We’ve seen similar situations play out in Detroit and Cleveland. The Pistons ultimately agreed to buy-out Blake Griffin before he signed with the Brooklyn Nets last week. The Cavaliers are still scouring the market in search of a trade for Andre Drummond, but the chances are increasingly likely that Drummond will wind up hitting the buyout market, as well.
Whether that comes to pass with Aldridge obviously remains to be seen. BetOnline.ag is offering you the chance to put money on where LMA ends up next, either via trade or free agency. Let’s read through the options and find the best landing spot for Alridge, shall we?
Boston Celtics (+200)
The Celtics were reportedly in the mix for Griffin before he signed with Brooklyn. Boston is also a logical landing spot for Drummond given the team’s needs in the frontcourt, but Aldridge is another potential fit. While he has largely been phased out of the plans amid San Antonio’s youth movement, the Celtics could surely still find a use for the seven-time All-Star.
Aldridge’s average of 13.7 points per game this season is the second-lowest of his career, but he’s also playing just over 25 minutes per game. He wouldn’t have a huge offensive burden in Boston with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker swallowing most of the usage, but Aldridge would be an immediate offensive upgrade up front over the likes of Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson. The Celtics have tried to turn Theis into a stretch-four this season, but Aldridge is better-equipped to play that role.
It’s come back around again, so reminder: Andre Drummond doesn’t fit inside the TPE the Celtics have from Gordon Hayward.
Drummond makes $28.7M. TPE is $28.5M with a max salary match of $28.6M.
All you want to know about TPEs is here for @celticsblog:https://t.co/o7t3kTyfuO
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) March 5, 2021
The Celtics also have a handy $28.5 million trade exception that was created when Gordon Hayward signed with Charlotte this offseason. Boston could afford the entirety of Aldridge’s massive $24 million salary via the trade exception. They could also send Tristan Thompson and his $9.2 million salary back to San Antonio, which would keep Boston under the luxury tax threshold.
The Celtics seem to like what Thompson has brought in his first season, but this team hasn’t lived up to expectations. Adding Aldridge would allow Theis to slide back to his more natural center spot, while LMA could also shuffle between both frontcourt spots. Jettisoning Thompson would also clear the way for Robert Williams, who has shown a ton of promise this season, to earn more playing time.
The Celtics make an awful lot of sense here, so the value at +200 is very appealing.
Miami Heat (+250)
The Heat made a trip to the Finals last season, but they’ve gotten off to a rough start this year. Miami did improve shortly before the All-Star break, but Pat Riley has never been one to stand pat (pun VERY intended). If Riley sees a way to upgrade his roster, he’s going to get it done.
The Heat don’t have the hefty trade exception the Celtics can use, but Miami should have an easier time cobbling together enough salary to make the money work. Andre Iguodala ($15 million), Kelly Olynyk ($12.5 million), and the out-of-favor Meyers Leonard ($9.4 million) are all very expendable. The Heat would presumably sweeten the pot for San Antonio by throwing some future draft considerations into the deal.
Aldridge earning $24M this season in final year of deal. Heat have cap filler (Leonard, Olynyk, Iguodala) to make deal work under cap, but how much of an asset for a rental, unless there is indication of a re-up? Herro? Nunn? Robinson? Achiuwa? https://t.co/436BzGiopC
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) March 11, 2021
Iguodala is well past his prime, but the Heat aren’t exactly deep on the wing. Iggy has played his way into a sizable bench role this season. If he leaves, who fills those minutes? KZ Okpala? Moe Harkless? The oft-injured Avery Bradley?
Miami also doesn’t have as dire a need for Aldridge as the Celtics do. Olynyk has played well enough this season in a stretch-four role next to Bam Adebayo, while rookie Precious Achiuwa has played well enough to earn the backup center minutes behind Bam. Would Aldridge be enough of an upgrade over Olynyk to make that deal worthwhile for the Heat?
I don’t think Miami at +250 makes as much sense as Boston does at +200. So, if you’re looking to bet one of the favorites, make it the Celtics.
Portland Trail Blazers (+400)
Could Aldridge return to Portland for a reunion with the Trail Blazers? It’s certainly possible. San Antonio may not be too keen on trading Aldridge to a fellow Western Conference contender, but Portland might be able to find a role for the former All-Star.
The problem is that the Blazers can’t realistically afford Aldridge in a trade. Combining Rodney Hood and Zach Collins would put about $15 million worth of contracts in the deal, which still leaves them short. Jusuf Nurkic, Enes Kanter, Robert Covington, and Derrick Jones Jr. are core pieces for this team. Portland obviously isn’t trading CJ McCollum for Aldridge, either.
QUICK PHOTOSHOP OF WHAT LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE WOULD LOOK LIKE IN A BLAZER JERSEY. PLEASE CREDIT IF REPOSTING pic.twitter.com/E39NTFCIHR
— TRILLBLAZIN JR. (@TRILLBLAZIN) March 11, 2021
So, the only way for Aldridge to make his way back to the Pacific Northwest is via a buyout. Could that happen? Of course. If no suitable trade offer materializes by the 25th, the Spurs will presumably have little choice but to eat his salary and cut bait. It’d be pretty awkward to send him away for a trade and ultimately have to bring him back to the team if no trade comes about.
Aldridge returning to Portland would be nostalgic, but his actual role for this team would be unclear. The Blazers have embraced a bit of a small-ball approach this season with Covington, Jones, and Carmelo Anthony logging minutes at both forward spots next to Nurkic and/or Kanter at center. Aldridge’s minutes would presumably come at the expense of Melo, but the two have been comparably productive so far this season.
Aldridge and Damian Lillard are reportedly still close, but this move doesn’t make a whole lot of sense basketball-wise for the Blazers. Aldridge should also be able to find a more suitable fit with another team, which makes the Blazers a pretty risky option at +400.
Charlotte Hornets (+400)
The Hornets’ stock is trending north at the moment thanks in large part to rookie LaMelo Ball. Ball should breeze to Rookie of the Year this season, and there’s a chance he helps the Hornets get back into the playoffs. Coming out of the All-Star break, Charlotte is the No. 7 seed in the East.
However, the Hornets are another team that can’t easily find $24 million worth of salary to send back to the Spurs in a trade. Cody Zeller and his $15.4 million salary are probably expendable, but dealing Zeller would leave Bismack Biyombo as the only true center on the roster. Zeller alone wouldn’t be enough to match Aldridge’s contract, anyway. I don’t think Zeller is necessarily a core cog for the Hornets moving forward, but swapping him with LMA makes little sense.
So, we’re talking about another buyout situation. While the Hornets are an up-and-comer, I see no reason for Aldridge to even consider this team if he hits the free-agent market. Charlotte is a fun story, but they’re not winning a title any time soon. The whole point of Aldridge leaving the Spurs is so that he can join a team with a chance to win a ring. Leaving the eighth seed in the West for the seventh seed in the East doesn’t get him any closer to lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time.
Los Angeles Lakers (+500)
Now we’re talkin’.
The Lakers were reportedly in the mix for Griffin before he signed with Brooklyn. LA is also said to be interested in Drummond if he becomes a free agent. The Lakers do need some extra size, but Aldridge would probably be a better overall fit for what LA wants to do offensively.
Drummond is a big name, but his actual basketball value is questionable. He’s a bit of a stat-padder who hasn’t played a major role for a winning team at any point in his career. Aldridge isn’t what he once was, but his ability to step out and shoot from the perimeter makes him a more natural fit for a LeBron James-led outfit.
I’d assume Andre Drummond is atop of the Lakers’ wishlist, but LaMarcus Aldridge is an intriguing option. It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. Lakers have options, but both of these players will be hot commodities for contenders around the league.
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) March 11, 2021
I don’t see any reason the Lakers would be averse to trading Montrezl Harrell at this point. Harrell’s struggles on defense and lack of size give him minimal value these days, but Popovich is the type of coach that can find a suitable role for him. LA doesn’t have many more tradeable assets, though. San Antonio would presumably love to get their hands on the likes of Alex Caruso or Talen Horton-Tucker, but neither player makes enough money to make this prospective trade work salary-wise.
The Lakers are among the favorites at NBA betting sites to repeat as NBA champs this season, but they could use some help from the outside. LA is just 24th in the league in three-point percentage. Aldridge is connecting on about 39 percent of his looks from beyond the long line this year. If Aldridge hits the buyout market, the Lakers will surely be among the top teams on his list.
At +500, the Lakers make plenty of sense as LMA’s ultimate destination.
Phoenix Suns (+600)
The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, but that will change this year. Following the offseason addition of Chris Paul, Phoenix has vaulted all the way up to the No. 2 spot in the West coming out of the All-Star break. While they may not finish that high, it’s also impossible to imagine the Suns falling all the way out at this point.
It’s Not Easy to Find a Trade for a Guy Making $24 Million
So, the Suns are yet another team that would likely have to wait for Aldridge to become a free agent if they want to get their hands on him. Monty Williams already has a pretty jam-packed rotation on his hands. Phoenix doesn’t have a true center backing up Deandre Ayton, but Dario Saric, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, and Frank Kaminsky are all logging frontcourt rotation minutes on a nightly basis.
Aldridge would be a clear upgrade over someone like Kaminsky, but I also question whether Phoenix would be at the top of his list of destinations if the Spurs buy him out. The Suns are a nice story, but most still aren’t buying them as a legitimate title contender. You can still get Phoenix at +2800 to win the title this season.
Would Aldridge really turn down the chance to sign with the Lakers, Nets, or Clippers so he can join the Suns? It’s hard to imagine, which makes Phoenix a sketchy option at +600.
Brooklyn Nets (+700)
Does Brooklyn need LaMarcus Aldridge? Absolutely not. You can argue they didn’t need Blake Griffin, either, but that didn’t stop the Nets from signing him.
While the Nets would surely love to sign Aldridge for nothing, there are only so many minutes to go around. We know James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant will all push for 40 minutes per game come playoff time. Griffin will play a role up front next to DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green. Nic Claxton has looked incredible since returning from injury, so his role is only likely to increase from here.
Joining the NBA’s newest superteam may be Aldridge’s easiest path to a ring, but does he really want to win his first title as a benchwarmer in Brooklyn? There is just no clear path to playing time for Aldridge here, so I highly doubt the Nets will emerge as a serious contender for his signature.
Los Angeles Clippers (+800)
Unless the Spurs have much use for veterans like Marcus Morris or Serge Ibaka, I don’t see a viable trade route between San Antonio and the LA Clippers, either. LA also owes the vast majority of its future first-round draft picks to the Thunder for the Paul George trade, so the Clips can’t tempt the Spurs with much draft capital, either.
LaMarcus Aldridge is drawing interest, while the Clippers seem to be content with their core.@mphoad rounds up the latest rumours in the NBA. ?https://t.co/JvyIIDsnZH
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 11, 2021
So, we’re looking at another potential buyout destination. The Clippers have played Nicolas Batum and Morris at power forward for most of the season, with Ibaka splitting the center minutes with Ivica Zubac. Ty Lue’s frontcourt rotation is pretty set. Would Aldridge be an upgrade over the Batum/Morris combo at power forward? It’s possible. Batum’s shooting has cooled since the beginning of the season, while Morris is fairly streaky.
Aldridge is a fit from a basketball perspective with the Clippers, but the Lakers are still kings of Los Angeles. If both LA teams are vying for Aldridge, can we really expect him to reject the Purple and Gold? The Lakers also have a more pressing need for Aldridge, so they would presumably be able to offer him a larger role right away.
Philadelphia 76ers (+1000)
The 76ers haven’t been linked with Aldridge much. Philly’s frontcourt minutes are spoken for between Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Dwight Howard. Aldridge would make sense as an insurance policy for the oft-injured Embiid, but we’re dealing in hypotheticals at that point.
Philly could offer Seth Curry and Danny Green for Aldridge, but doing that deal instantly saps Doc Rivers’ rotation of both starting wings. Philly isn’t exactly strong on the wing to begin with, which is why Daryl Morey traded for both players just last winter. The Sixers could become a suitor if Aldridge hits the buyout frenzy, but this is another team that can’t really offer the player a big role.
Philadelphia offers upside at +1000, but this doesn’t look like the most realistic outcome.
What’s the Best Bet?
The Spurs will try their darnedest to trade Aldridge for something of value, but there’s a pretty good chance his hefty salary means a buyout awaits. The one team that could come to the Spurs’ rescue is the Celtics, thanks to that sizable Gordon Hayward trade exception. Boston makes sense from a basketball perspective, as well, which makes the Celts a very strong bet at the current +200 odds.
If the Celtics don’t swing a deal for LMA, he may be headed to the free-agent wire. The following are the best bets to acquire Aldridge:
1. Boston Celtics (+200)
2. Los Angeles Lakers (+500)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (+800)
4. Miami Heat (+250)
5. Portland Trail Blazers (+400)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …
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