The relationship between LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs might not be as copacetic as we thought. The All-Star forward isn't happy in San Antonio and might be moved before the end of the season, according to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. The Express News confirmed that the Spurs are willing to trade Aldridge for the right package, but have not had trade talks yet.
Since the Spurs don't typically have leaks, it's easy to be skeptical. There's no reason to doubt either report, however. MacMullan is a respected journalist and the Express News' account about Aldridge not being happy as a second option is consistent with reports coming out of Portland when he left the Trail Blazers. Both the Spurs and Aldridge might actually be considering a change.
But it's hard to imagine a set of circumstances in which a trade actually happens anytime soon. Even if the reported rift is serious enough to cause a potential breakup, it would simply be extremely hard to get equal value — much less an upgrade — in the trade market right now.
The stars that might be available now are just not all that enticing. The Knicks would probably move Carmelo Anthony for Aldridge, but he won't play power forward exclusively, so he's not a fit next to Kawhi Leonard. Maybe the Kings are so tired of DeMarcus Cousins' antics that they are willing to engage in trade talks, but reports suggest they want to keep him. It doesn't seem like there's anyone else rumored to be remotely available who could match Aldridge's impact.
Multiple teams could offer packages centered around young players and picks, including the Raptors, Suns, Nuggets and Celtics. This is a transitional year and reloading on young talent would make some sense. In a few years, when the Warriors and LeBron James start to decline, the Spurs could be on the rise. Except that doesn't line up with the decision to bring Manu Ginobili back and sign Pau Gasol. And are we sure Gregg Popovich would be willing to preside over a rebuilding effort?
The Spurs might not want to make a move now but Aldridge could force their hand, obviously. He could turn up the heat by going public with his concerns and asking for a trade. That might not be a good idea for Aldridge, though. Not only would his reputation take a big hit, but he's also on the books for one season after this one. He has little leverage to determine where he lands. San Antonio's front office could simply take the best offer, whether he likes where he's traded to or not, and he could find himself in an even worse situation.
If San Antonio starts the season poorly, they might be motivated to make a move. They would have to go through a truly disastrous first handful of games, though, which is unlikely. The adjustment period of the new additions could result in some loses, but San Antonio should prevail most nights on talent alone. Unless something unexpected happens, the Spurs should be good almost from the get-go and only improve from there. Winning cures all in the NBA and if San Antonio is among the best teams in the league once again, Aldridge could come around and the Spurs might convince themselves to stay put, at least for a while.
If by February, the Warriors and the Clippers are a clear a step above the rest of the league, the idea of parting ways could be revisited. Maybe the Hawks have a disappointing season and Paul Millsap is suddenly available then. The Jazz could be looking for more firepower at the deadline to make a push up the standings and might be willing to move Derrick Favors. If the Serge Ibaka experiment fails in Orlando, the Spurs might be able to pry him plus a young piece with Aldridge as bait. Those deals are likely not on the table now, but might be eventually. It could pay off to wait.
There's seemingly something to these rumors, to the point that dismissing them would be unwise. Maybe things truly are approaching a breaking point, with Aldridge pushing for a change in the shadows. Maybe the Spurs recognize that the Warriors are a step above them and will punt this season to get younger. It's unlikely, but there's a chance a better player becomes available soon and Aldridge is used as a piece to get him. There's a non-zero chance that he ends the season elsewhere, and that's news.
But don't expect anything to happen soon. The front office will surely explore all its options, as it should, but the right deal might not be available at this point. Aldridge would have to be exceedingly disruptive for San Antonio to move him without getting good value back and if he is, he would likely be doing serious damage to his career.
Assuming irreconcilable differences, both parties would be better off staying together for now — and maybe a season of winning is enough to make everything alright