The San Antonio Spurs are pursuing a top-10 pick in the NBA draft, and have spoken about a possible trade involving power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge’s contract contains a player option after the 2017-18 season, but he declined to speak about the situation when asked about it at the playoffs
For the Spurs, working to perfect a trade at this time 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 reporters in May. “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).
Aldridge signed an $84 million contract in 2015 as the club’s most significant acquisition in free agency. However, Aldridge has received well-known criticism for his play in the 2017 postseason. During the postseason, he averaged a career-low of 16.5 points per game in the playoffs along with career lows in player efficiency rating and blocks as well.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich voiced discontentment with Aldridge’s performance after Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. During that game, the power forward failed to score in the first half and finished with eight points in 27 minutes.
The Spurs have suffered several injuries of late. Point guard Tony Parker suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury during the Western Conference semifinals. Then, the team lost Kawhi Leonard to a sprained ankle in Game 1 of the conference finals against Golden State. San Antonio was expecting Aldridge to fill the void. But instead, as soon as Leonard suffered the injury with the Spurs leading the Warriors by 23 points in Game 1, Aldridge struggled.
During the final 20 minutes of Game 1 against the Warriors, the Spurs squandered the 23-point lead. Then during 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.”
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 averaged 24.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
In San Antonio, Aldridge’s 2017 postseason difficulties 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—a team worst. Aldridge’s plus-minus of minus-36 in that game registered as the worst by a Spur in the playoffs under Popovich.
Ultimately, Aldridge never fully lived up to the lofty expectations established by the team upon signing him.
Aldridge struggled to deliver with Leonard and Parker out in the playoffs, a difficult task made more difficult by a lack of meaningful contributions from other Spurs on the roster. His performance may well have been the catalyst for San Antonio seeking out a trade