Shortly before the All-Star break, Bleacher Report posted a trade idea recommending the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs flip Al Horford and LaMarcus Aldridge. As we wrote, this would be a value trade for the Spurs but OKC would gain very little. Horford would be a huge improvement for San Antonio, while the Thunder’s only benefits would be to lean into the tank and move off Horford’s long-term salary.
Now, that deal is looking even more unreasonable. The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarwoski reported that Aldridge and the Spurs are parting ways and that San Antonio is looking for a trade location. Aldridge has little to no trade value, while Horford still has some. Oklahoma City shouldn’t make that deal.
But that doesn’t mean the Thunder can’t be part of a trade. Could OKC be a taker, but solely as a salary dump?
Aldridge’s trade value is low, but because his contract expires after this season, there may be interest from other teams that also have oversized contracts.
Here are a few teams who may have interest based on their personnel:
- The Charlotte Hornets could use Cody Zeller’s $15.4 million contract to get the deal done.
- Maybe the Dallas Mavericks are willing to give up Dwight Powell (and James Johnson’s contract) to do it.
- Do the Sacramento Kings want off Harrison Barnes’ deal?
- What about an Aldridge-for-Kevin Love swap?
All those trades have flaws, though. The Spurs would be getting back a lot of salary from the Hornets. The more I look at the Mavericks deal, the more ridiculous it seems to give up Powell for half a season of Aldridge. Same with Barnes — he has more value than that. And the Spurs probably don’t want three seasons of Love.
It’s tough to see anything of these deals go through. More simple would be for the Thunder to use their cap space for a salary dump and then waive Aldridge.
A dream version for OKC would be something along the lines of Trevor Ariza for Aldridge and a first-round pick. The Thunder would then buy out Aldridge’s contract. In doing so, they’ll have gained a first-round pick and found a taker for Ariza.
Ariza would need to consent to join the Spurs, though, or else San Antonio may not approve of the deal. He did not join the Thunder and is a buyout candidate, at which point he would likely join a contender.
If Ariza is unwilling to play for San Antonio, the Thunder could trade Darius Miller instead. A veteran owed $7 million this season, Miller does not have a rotation role with the Thunder. Oklahoma could buy him out or let his contract run out, but trading him to the Spurs would be a more ideal scenario.
The salary swap would work because the Thunder have a $27.5 million trade exception from Steven Adams and a $19.5 million from Danilo Gallinari. Either could be used in this trade for Aldridge, who is owed $24 million.
We talk all the time about Oklahoma City’s draft capital, but the team is also in an envious position due to the cap space. They have the second-lowest payroll in the league. This would allow them to put together a deal like this — one where they get a first-round pick just for taking on a large contract and then waive the player.
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