The San Antonio Spurs, in pursuit of a top-10 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, have spoken to at least three teams about a possible trade involving power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Aldridge’s contract contains a player option after the 2017-18 season, and he declined to address the situation when asked specifically by ESPN about it during the playoffs.
For the Spurs, working to consummate a trade now is more advantageous than potentially losing Aldridge after next season with no compensation in return.
“He can opt out in a year,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford told ESPN last month. “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.”
As of Thursday morning, the Spurs have the No. 29 pick in the first round and a second-round selection (No. 59 overall).
Arizona Sports 98.7 first reported that the Spurs were talking to teams about an Aldridge trade.
Aldridge was signed to an $84 million contract in 2015 as the club’s most significant acquisition in free agency. In the 2017 postseason, he received widespread criticism for his play, as he averaged a career-low 16.5 points per game in the playoffs along with career lows in player efficiency rating (15.2) and blocks (1.0).
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich voiced displeasure with Aldridge’s performance after Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, when the power forward failed to score in the first half and finished with eight points in 27 minutes.
With point guard Tony Parker suffering a season-ending quadriceps injury during the Western Conference semifinals, followed by the team losing Kawhi Leonard to a sprained ankle in Game 1 of the conference finals against Golden State, San Antonio expected Aldridge to fill the void. Instead, once Leonard suffered the injury with the Spurs leading the Warriors by 23 points in Game 1, Aldridge struggled.
Over the final 20 minutes of Game 1 against the Warriors — when the Spurs squandered the 23-point lead — and the first 12 minutes of Game 2, Aldridge connected on a combined 3-of-13 shots to go with seven turnovers. During that span, the Warriors outscored the Spurs by 42 points, leading Popovich to say: “LaMarcus has got to score for us. He can’t be timid. He turned down shots in the first half. He can’t do it. You’ve got to score. Scoring has got to come from someplace. I think he’s got a major responsibility in Game 3 to come out and get something done.”
During the first 28 minutes of Game 1, with Leonard still in the fold, Aldridge poured in 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting with only one turnover.
Aldridge didn’t live up to Popovich’s expectations for Game 3, scoring 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting in another loss. In Game 4, Popovich pulled Aldridge from the contest with 4:56 left in the third quarter, as the power forward scored eight points on 4-of-11 shooting in 22 minutes.
During Aldridge’s final two playoff appearances with the Portland Trail Blazers prior to joining the Spurs, he had averaged 24.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
In San Antonio, Aldridge’s 2017 postseason issues extended beyond the conference finals. They started with the loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, when Aldridge produced a postseason career-low four points while surrendering, according to ESPN Stats & Information, a team-worst 23 points as a primary defender. Aldridge’s plus-minus of minus-36 in that game registered as the worst by a Spur in the playoffs under Popovich.
“I heard the media killed me, but I didn’t read one article,” Aldridge told ESPN at the time. “I don’t go on social media during the playoffs. So I didn’t see Twitter, didn’t see Instagram. I was fine. I knew I was battling through some things, and I went out there and tried to play. I did the best I could do at that time, and that was it. It wasn’t my performance that got us that L. Of course, I wanted to be better. I was disappointed in getting blown out so badly, of course. But personally, I just knew I had to get myself more involved.”
Aldridge finally did that by asserting himself in Game 6 with Leonard out because of a sprained ankle. Aldridge racked up 34 points to go with 12 rebounds, marking his first 30-and-10 game with the Spurs in the postseason.
Buford acknowledged to ESPN that Aldridge has “fit in a way I’m not sure we ever could have dreamed would happen,” adding that “he’s made the transition of this year’s team after Tim [Duncan’s departure] very, very successful without getting very much recognition.”
Still, Aldridge struggled to deliver with Leonard and Parker out in the playoffs, a difficult task compounded by a lack of meaningful contributions from other Spurs on the roster.