Analyzing potential San Antonio Spurs trades for LaMarcus Aldridge

San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge
San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge (Photo by Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images) /

Potential Trade No. 2: Miami Heat

As reflected by the potential Denver Nuggets move, one fundamental question stands in the way: the brightest days in LaMarcus Aldridge’s career came at the “4” spot. But in today’s pace-and-space, small-ball era, can he take on the role as a star power forward?

Under the assumption that Aldridge is the next All-Star to take said talents to South Beach, he’d be sharing a frontcourt with Bam Adebayo — the switchable, do-it-all, Defensive Player of the Year candidate — which makes even the potential process all the more easy. Here’s a look at what the numbers offer, though.

There hasn’t been much of a stark difference between when Aldridge lines up at the “5” in small lineups versus when he goes to the “4” alongside Jakob Poeltl. Per Cleaning the Glass’ position stats, the San Antonio Spurs have performed as a 21-win team with Aldridge is a power forward. As SportsCenter’s Neil Everett and Stan Verrett would ask, “Is that bad?”

It’s not good.

At center, that win total “skyrockets” up to a 22-win team. On a positive note, Aldridge does produce an extra 4.5 points per possession and a 4.8 percent increase in effective field goal percentage a power forward. Take that with multiple grains of salt, though; only 11 percent of Aldridge’s 655 minutes have come at that position this season.

The regression to the mean comes on defense, where the Spurs have allowed 121.9 points per 100 possessions, compared to 115.9 when at power forward.

Aldridge’s foot speed and defensive motor to appear to have slowed, a common sign for players with as much mileage as he has. But, it’s not to a point where, figuratively speaking, the car is coughing, and you start to smell the black smoke. Part of that has to do with San Antonio’s spotty rotations. Additionally, Aldridge has never played with a big as defensively versatile as Adebayo.

For those laterally quick bigs, Aldridge would be granted the chance to play with someone capable of doing this on the regular.

With respects to them, it can be difficult to quarterback a defense with Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and DeMar DeRozan on the court simultaneously. And you guessed it: that lineup accounts for most of what the Spurs do.

Together, they own a minus-4.8 net rating over a 37-minute stretch this season,  which feels surprising, since that same lineup owned a plus-8.8 net rating in 2018-19. But given this year’s start, can we positively say we’ll have time to watch that regress to its mean?

That’s a ton of numbers, so for good measure, here’s one more: there’s a 50 percent chance we just thought this over for no reason. Do the Miami Heat actually have enough assets to entice San Antonio to make a move?

It feels unlikely that the Heat would interfere with their immediate future, which would mean dealing the likes of Rookie of the Year candidates Kendrick Nunn or Tyler Herro, or the aforementioned Adebayo.

The Heat organization obviously has a way with words — just ask LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They’ll need to put those salesman skills to good use, should they assume the Spurs would be willing to take on a package that could include something to the tune of: Justise Winslow, Derrick Jones Jr., and a take-your-pick, sweet-shooting addition of either Meyers Leonard or Kelly Olynyk.

For Miami, that’d absolutely be the selling point. Winslow has had his struggles with ball-dominance and lack of shooting from the outside. Still, he’s a versatile defender, and plugging him in hypothetically with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White could be a big step in San Antonio’s rebuild.

Miami can’t offer the perks of a first-round pick, per usual, they’ve dealt the majority of them off. But, if they force San Antonio to understand that 45-win seasons and first-round exits aren’t indicative of San Antonio, it could be what they need to make a move for another star.

Stats to know:

  • Despite their penchant for hustle and grit, the Miami Heat sit among the cellar of the NBA in offensive rebounding (tied for No. 26 in the league). Since the statistics have been traded, Aldridge has been amid the elite individually. He’s ranked: No. 35 in 2013-14, No. 27 in 2014-15, No. 20 in 2015-16 and 2016-17, No. 5 in 2017-18, No. 12 in 2018-19, and No. 34 in 2019-20.
  • The Heat sit in the middle of the league in terms of midrange shooting. Yet, only seven teams have been as inaccurate as them (36.2 percent). Assuming they aren’t ready to completely abandon that shot, a potential trade could give them the unofficial king of the”middy.” No player in the NBA makes (or attempts) more mid-range shots than Aldridge, and his 43.0 percent would rank fifth among teams.
  • Miami hasn’t lost often, but when have, it’s been because they’ve lacked bonafide scoring against top-shelf teams (Denver, the L.A. Lakers, Houston, Philadelphia and Minnesota). In their losses, they’ve averaged 94.4 points, a stark difference from their usual 111.9. With respects to the likes of Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn — the secondary and tertiary scorers — it’s difficult to imagine a deep postseason run where they’re carrying the show on Jimmy Butler‘s off nights. Aldridge, a career 20.8-point, 8.5-rebound producer in the postseason, could be the answer.