The San Antonio Spurs and former All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge are going to part ways. San Antonio is looking for a trade before the March 25th deadline.

Aldridge is following in the footsteps of fellow veteran frontcourt All-Stars Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Griffin and Drummond had finished their time with Detroit and Cleveland respectively. Their front offices scoured the trade market. Griffin was ultimately bought out and joined the Nets.

Drummond remains a Cavalier for now.

An Aldridge trade is easier than it would have been for Griffin, but there’s no denying he has dropped off. He’s at his lowest mark for points and minutes since his rookie year. The Spurs are in playoff position, having moved away from Aldridge as a focal point. His on/off numbers are absolutely brutal. Never a great defender, Aldridge is now a clear negative on that end.

That’s not to say Aldridge has no value. He’s still a talented scorer. He’s added three-point range over the last couple of seasons. There’s a role for him on a good team, coming off the bench to play the five and knock down jumpers. As a veteran presence for a team like Memphis or Charlotte, he’d be a nice guy to add.

       

Aldridge trade destinations

The trouble, though, is that $24 million salary. Just as with Drummond, matching the money is problematic. Teams like the Hornets and Grizzlies have Cody Zeller and Gorgui Dieng to trade, but is it worth it to flip them with a second-rounder?

The Celtics trade exception puts them among the favorites. Does putting Aldridge on this roster do enough for them? Does it make them Finals contenders? Probably not. They can wait and use the TPE in the offseason if they prefer.

Chicago is another team with tradeable salary in Otto Porter Jr. Aldridge doesn’t do anything for them. Teams higher up the standings have limited salary to include in a package. The Miami Heat have been suggested as a destination, but they wouldn’t be getting any better by flipping Kelly Olynyk for Aldridge.

It’s romantic to throw Portland out there. Like so many others, it’s not a trade that really works. The Blazers would have to give up considerable depth to put together enough salary, and Aldridge might even find himself as third-choice center when they’re fully healthy.

Likelihood of an Aldridge buyout

Wednesday’s reports said all the right things about trade discussions. The Spurs talked the talk about confidence in finding a trade. While easier to move than Griffin, and maybe Drummond too, the Spurs are unlikely to get anything of note back. It’s probably a second-round pick at best.

This quote from Gregg Popovich, as reported by Tim MacMahon, opens the door for a buyout.

Popovich said, “He’s done everything we’ve asked. At this point, we’d just like to do something that will work for him as much for our club, because he deserves that.”

So, does that mean Aldridge can veto a trade? With no title contenders likely to put together the salaries for a deal to work, does this make a buyout inevitable? Or would Aldridge be happy playing the Vince Carter role on a young team?

Just as with Griffin, there will be a long list of suitors if Aldridge is bought out. The Lakers, Warriors, Nets, Celtics and Heat would all be in the mix. Portland might be the favorite in that circumstance, however, particularly if Aldridge fancies a reunion with Damian Lillard.

The Spurs will look for an Aldridge trade. They’ve still got two weeks until the NBA trade deadline. With minimal return, though, a buyout might be the best scenario for all parties with the Spurs clearly wanting to involve the former All-Star in this process.

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