It appears as though LaMarcus Aldridge has played his last game with the San Antonio Spurs.
Prior to San Antonio's matchup with the Dallas Mavericks on March 10, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich revealed that Aldridge and the team have mutually agreed to part ways.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski added that the Spurs are working on trade scenarios with Aldridge and have a "level of confidence" that they will find a trade partner for him ahead of this season's trade deadline on March 25.
Spurs are working on trade scenarios with LaMarcus Aldridge and have been engaged on several fronts, sources tell ESPN.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 11, 2021
Aldridge is in the final season of his current contract and is on the books for $24.0 million. He's averaging his fewest minutes (25.9) and points (13.7) since his rookie season, but he's long been one of the league's most prolific post-up scorers and remains a shooting threat from midrange and 3-point range.
Even if it continues to be in a reduced role, which teams make sense for Aldridge?
A lot of what I wrote about why Andre Drummond is an option for the Raptors applies to Aldridge.
The skinny is that the centre position is Toronto's only real weakness right now. As much of a revelation as Chris Boucher has been, he's a little undersized to be a full-time centre, and Aron Baynes is in the midst of one of the worst seasons of his career.
Knocking on the door of his 36th birthday, Aldridge wouldn't be a long-term solution for the Raptors, but he could give them some more size and shooting for this season.
The problem the Raptors would face is they'd almost certainly have to give up something of real value to get Aldridge. Assuming Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are off the table for what should be obvious reasons, it would take them something along the lines of Baynes, Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw to simply match Aldridge's salary.
Ultimately, that might be too much for the Raptors to part ways with for centre who is on the decline and will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
The Celtics are an option for any player on a sizable contract who is made available ahead of the trade deadline.
Why? The Celtics received a $28.5 million trade exception they signed and traded Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets in the offseason, which allows them to trade for a player who is making $28.5 million or less without having to match their salary. It isn't quite that simple because they're hard-capped, but having the largest trade exception in NBA history at least opens the door for them to acquire a big-named player without having to break up their core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker.
Of course, there's a chance the Celtics have their eyes on using their trade exception to get someone who moves the needle more, both in the short-term and long-term. To get a sense of who that someone could be, the Celtics have reportedly expressed interest in Jerami Grant, Nikola Vucevic and Harrison Barnes in recent weeks. Also, the Celtics don't have to use their trade exception by this season's trade deadline. The exact expiration date of their trade exception is unknown, but it will carry over into the 2021 offseason.
Even so, the Celtics are one of the few teams that wouldn't have to sacrifice their depth to acquire Aldridge, and he would give them a different look at centre with his ability to post-up and space the floor. It might not be the most likely destination for Aldridge, but it can't be ruled out.
Another team that wouldn't have to sacrifice much of their depth to acquire Aldridge.
The Heat don't have a big trade exception like the Celtics do, but it's not hard for them to match Aldridge's salary. According to ESPN's Trade Machine, Andre Iguodala plus one of Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard works. Simply Olynyk and Leonard also works.
If Olynyk were involved, the Heat are only an option if they think Aldridge would be an upgrade. Olynyk is shooting 32.8 percent from 3-point range, but he's a low usage big next to Bam Adebayo who is perfectly content hanging out on the 3-point line. Aldridge has developed into a solid 3-point shooter - he's made 37.9 percent of his 3-point attempts since the start of the 2019-20 season - but he doesn't shoot them in the same volume as Olynyk and is used to having more of the offence run through him.
With Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler now at full strength, there's a case to be made that the Heat would be better off with Olynyk. There's also a case to be made that they'd be better off packaging Olynyk's salary with either Iguodala or Leonard to pursue someone who would be a better fit than Aldridge.
Still, Aldridge would make for an interesting addition and the Heat have shown interest in him in the past. He's not the same player he was when the Heat met with him in 2015, but there is some familiarity between the two sides.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, there has been "no movement towards a contract buyout." It'll be interesting to see if that changes in the coming weeks if the Spurs aren't able to find a trade for Aldridge. Because if he does get bought out, contenders would become an option for him.
The Los Angeles Lakers are an obvious one if Aldridge is bought out. They're reportedly in the market for another big, and you can never have enough shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Aldridge's size could come in handy in the playoffs.
As mentioned by ESPN's Kevin Pelton, the Philadelphia 76ers would be another interesting option for Aldridge. His fit with Joel Embiid wouldn't be particularly clean, but his shooting would make him a useful piece off the bench in lineups built around Ben Simmons.
The Brooklyn Nets can't be ruled out either. They're proving to be a popular destination for any veteran and could use Aldridge's shooting at the centre position.
Last but not least, the Phoenix Suns. They've shown interest in Aldridge in the past and he'd give them a solid backup to Deandre Ayton.
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