Gregg Popovich's bombshell pregame announcement Wednesday that the San Antonio Spurs will part ways with veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge could have major ramifications for the Warriors' pursuit of a playoff spot.
Aldridge, 35, didn't start in any of his last three appearances for the Spurs ahead of the All-Star break. Popovich said prior to Wednesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks that Aldridge and San Antonio "mutually agreed for him to work on some opportunities elsewhere."
The Spurs will explore trading Aldridge between now and the March 25 deadline, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and San Antonio is confident it won't need to buy out Aldridge.
Aldridge is averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season. The former is the second-lowest average of his career, while the latter is his lowest. The Spurs have been better with the seven-time All-Star off the court than on it, but San Antonio will still need to replace a key part of the rotation. That could be good news for the ninth-seeded Warriors (19-18), who are only 1.5 games back of the seventh-seeded Spurs (18-14) in the Western Conference standings.
Acquiring Aldridge is another matter entirely.
Although the Warriors were tenuously linked to Aldridge this offseason, Aldridge's expiring $24 million deal would be difficult for Golden State to absorb without trading one of its biggest contracts. A trade centered on, say, Kelly Oubre Jr.'s expiring $14.375 million would require the Warriors to include (at least) a couple of smaller contracts to send out salary that's within 25 percent -- plus $100,000 -- of Aldridge's expiring deal.
If Aldridge is traded to another team and bought out, the Warriors surely would be one of many teams with playoff aspirations interested in signing the veteran. That doesn't necessarily mean Aldridge would be interested, considering where Golden State resides in the standings.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said before the All-Star break that rookie center James Wiseman would play a bigger role in the second half of the season than the first. Although the Warriors want to improve on offense over the final 35 games of the season, Aldridge's decline on defense wouldn't make him an obvious fit for a team that has prioritized defense as much as Golden State has this season.
Still, the end of Aldridge's Spurs career is good news for the Warriors' bid to avoid playing in for a postseason berth, as San Antonio is one of the team's Golden State must pass in the standings in order to do so. For all of Aldridge's struggles, redistributing nearly 26 minutes per game won't be an easy task for Popovich.