With just two weeks separating the NBA and its March 25 trade deadline, more and more players are being rumored as available, and a number of them have been tied to the Chicago Bulls.
The latest name to take center stage on the NBA rumor mill is 7-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported on Wednesday night that the veteran forward and the San Antonio Spurs are working towards an amicable split:
The 35-year old big has played just three of the team’s last nine games but has shown he has plenty left in the tank to help a team with needs in the frontcourt. Aldridge is averaging 13.7 points, and 4.5 rebounds this season.
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Aldridge to Chicago?
Everyone knows the Chicago Bulls aren’t happy with their frontcourt rotation, and would ideally find an upgrade or at least a new face that could help ahead of the March 25 deadline.
Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz penned the Windy City as one of the best fits for Aldridge’s next stop. In his trade proposal, the Bulls would send out Otto Porter Jr. and a second-round pick for the 35-year old big:
Wendell Carter Jr. is still the future at center, although he’s battled injuries in all three of his pro seasons. Aldridge would provide insurance at the position while serving as a veteran for the playoff push as the Bulls try to make their first postseason appearance since 2017.
Swartz went on to remind readers that Aldridge was originally drafted by Chicago before a draft-night deal for Tyrus Thomas landed him with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Looking back, it’s an easy call as to who won that deal. Thomas played just three and a half years with the Bulls before being traded to Charlotte. Aldridge spent nine years in Portland and made the playoffs five different seasons.
Aldridge Would Fill a Need for the Bulls
There’s no reporting to suggest that Aldridge’s next stop, or his preferred destination, would be a title contender. One can assume he wouldn’t mind being sent somewhere with a competitive edge, but the 15-year veteran has likely still got a few seasons left to his career and could sign with a contender as a free agent this offseason.
But don’t doubt that the Spurs are taking Aldridge’s input on his next landing spot. Head coach Gregg Popovich told MacMahon the team will look to find a trade partner that’s mutually beneficial for all parties:
Would Aldridge want to come play mentor for Carter Jr. and the Bulls? Chicago walks into their matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers at 16-18, and the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ve made it clear the playoffs are their priority this season, and as it stands, they’ve got a shot at the play-in tournament at a minimum.
There may not be a title shot, but Chicago would provide Aldridge an opportunity to showcase an ability to help a team like the Bulls rise to the occasion and be competitive. Thaddeus Young has thrived in that role this year.
Father Time is undoubtedly catching up to Aldridge, but he showed signs of productivity in spurts this year with the Spurs. He scored 28 points in a win over a healthy Los Angeles Lakers team as recently as January:
If nothing else, Aldridge is knocking down 36 percent of his 3.6 attempts from behind-the-arc, a number that would rank the sixth-highest mark on this Bulls roster. Their being a top-15 team in almost every three-point statistic isn’t a fluke, but it’s largely hinged on All-Star guard Zach LaVine, who’s shooting a career-high 43 percent.
Porter Jr. Would Get an Opportunity With the Spurs
Otto Porter Jr.’s future with Chicago has been widely speculated over the last week, including some reports that suggest the team could even reach a buyout with the forward and make him an unrestricted free agent.
The 27-year old has played just 45 games since he was acquired by Chicago at the 2019 trade deadline, and will likely return to the court for the first time since February on Thursday night against the 76ers. Porter Jr.’s averaging 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while knocking down 40 percent of his threes this season.
He’s in the last year of the four-year, $106 million deal he signed with the Washington Wizards in 2017. It’s long been speculated that he won’t return to the Bulls in free agency, making a trade all the more sensible for Chicago.
But as a trade partner, San Antonio would acquire his Bird Rights in the aforementioned deal, giving them an opportunity to scout the pending free agent ahead of this offseason and add some firepower to their playoff push.
The Spurs are currently one of the worst teams in the NBA behind the three-point line. NBA.com has them ranked as 25th in makes and 26th in attempts, but 15th in percentage. Porter Jr. would no doubt hold some appeal for a team that’s currently slated for a playoff appearance as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
A swap of the two forwards seems like a rare deal that may benefit all parties involved, not just the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, but also Otto Porter Jr. and LaMarcus Aldridge.
There are exactly two weeks until the NBA trade deadline.