3 reasons why the Miami Heat need to trade for LaMarcus Aldridge by the deadline

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As the NBA trade deadline approaches, more and more names are being thrust into trade talks, and potential buyout candidates are becoming hot commodities.

One of those candidates is San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said has mutually agreed to part ways with the team .

A seven-time All-Star, Aldridge has spent the past six seasons with the Spurs and has been an elite player even as he ages.

The Miami Heat reportedly have interest in acquiring Aldridge, and he could make a lot of sense for a team focused on contending this season.

Miami will surely have competition, especially if Aldridge is bought out, but he makes a lot of sense alongside Bam Adebayo in Miami’s frontcourt.

Aldridge isn’t the same player that averaged 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season, but he has produced this season despite a smaller role in San Antonio.

Aldridge has seen his minutes per game drop from 33.1 last season to just 25.9 per game during the 2020-21 campaign.

Yet, his numbers per 36 minutes are fairly close to last season’s.

Aldridge 2019-20 per 36: 20.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.8 blocks, 49.3 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point range

Aldridge 2020-21 per 36: 19.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 46.4 percent from the field, 36.0 percent from 3-point range

Sure, it is a drop-off, but despite being 35 years old, Aldridge hasn’t seen his game fall off a cliff. He still is a productive player and one that can stretch the floor at 6-foot-11.

The Heat have needed a forward ever since they lost Jae Crowder in free agency this past offseason, and Aldridge may be their best bet.

Miami has been going with a collection of Kelly Olynyk, Precious Achiuwa, Andre Iguodala and Moe Harkless at forward this season, and it is safe to say that the group has been underwhelming.

Harkless has played in just 11 games, and Achiuwa is still learning the ropes as a rookie.

If Miami intends to make another NBA Finals run, it likely doesn’t want to count on Achiuwa playing big minutes up against Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis and the other elite bigs in the Eastern Conference.

Olynyk has been solid, making 32 starts this season, but he has struggled with his 3-point shot. The 29-year-old is shooting just 33.3 percent from downtown this season and averages 6.0 boards per night.

For a guy who’s best attribute is stretching the floor, Olynyk has not exactly lit it up from outside.

As for Iguodala, he is a shell of his old self offensively these days. While his defense and leadership are valued, he is expendable if the Heat can find the right fit.

Which brings us back to Aldridge. The Heat have to determine whether or not he can fill in and play better than Olynyk in the second half of the season.

Here are three reasons why Aldridge makes sense for Miami by the trade deadline.

1. Low risk, high reward

Obviously, Miami will have to give up something to trade for Aldridge, but it is quite possible that he hits the buyout market and Miami would have to win him over other competing teams.

If it does come to that, the Heat have a much tougher argument since they got off to a slow start this year and aren’t at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

However, they can make a deal with the Spurs to avoid a bidding war in the buyout market.

Aldridge’s contract expires at the end of the season, which means San Antonio can’t be expecting much for the aging big man.

If Miami really wants to make a trade offer the Spurs can’t refuse, it could dangle a second-round pick as an asset to entice them to trade Aldridge rather than simply buy him out.

It’s pretty simple where Miami would have to start in a deal, as it would likely have to include Olynyk and Iguodala in order to match salaries.

Still, if the Heat can keep KZ Okpala, Kendrick Nunn and any of their other young assets out of the deal, it makes sense.

By trading for Aldridge, Miami would essentially be replacing Olynyk’s role, making him expendable.

The loss of Iguodala would hurt, but Harkless, Avery Bradley and others could help fill the void. After all, Iguodala is only averaging 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this season.

Those numbers certainly are replaceable, even if it means finding another player in the buyout market later on this season.

However, since the Spurs and Aldridge did mutually agree to part ways, there is going to need to be some agreement on Aldridge’s part for a deal to happen.

The Spurs seem to want to do right by him, and they won’t just ship him away if he truly doesn’t want to go to the destination.

If Pat Riley and company can sell him on some good ole Heat culture, then it’s possible a trade gives Miami an edge in the Aldridge sweepstakes.

2. Perfect offensive fit alongside Bam

Adebayo is having another breakout season for the Heat, but they still haven’t found him a true frontcourt running mate.

While Aldridge wouldn’t be the long-term answer, he does fit a lot of the qualities that the Heat should desire for Adebayo’s counterpart.

Aldridge is shooting the 3 better than Olynyk this season at 36.0 percent, and he is averaging more points (13.7 per game) in less minutes per game.

Aldridge is a natural-born scorer, as he averages 19.4 points per game for his career.

Is he going to return to All-Star form just because he’s playing with Adebayo? Probably not.

But, he does offer an improved offensive package to take some of the defensive focus away from both Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

Aldridge’s ability to create his own shot off of a post-up would bring a new dimension to the Miami offense.

He’s a slightly worse defender at this age, and his defensive rating (114.2) is worse than Olynyk’s (108.1) this season, but Aldridge is an upgrade offensively, both on the perimeter and in the post.

Adebayo is already Miami’s defensive anchor, so while anything Aldridge does defensively is a plus, it wouldn’t be bringing him in to transform the team’s defense.

It’s quite simple.

The Heat wouldn’t be looking for a forward if they were satisfied with Olynyk’s performance on both ends, and while he could be valuable off the bench, Miami can only find itself in that scenario if it scores Aldridge in a buyout.

Another added dimension is that the Heat offense is going to be more dynamic in the second half simply because Goran Dragic is finally healthy.

So, if Miami can add another talented offensive player at the power forward, it might be able to compete with Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Philadelphia come playoff time.

3. Playoff experience matters

Yes, Olynyk was a part of the Miami team that made the NBA Finals last season, but other than a 24-point outburst in Game 2 and a 17-point game in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Olynyk played less than 16 minutes in 13 of the 17 playoff games he appeared in last season.

He was inactive for four games on Miami’s run, and he doesn’t have close to the playoff pedigree that Aldridge does.

In 72 career playoff games, Aldridge is averaging 20.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

In his most recent playoff series during the 2018-19 season, Aldridge averaged 20.0 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field.

If Miami traded away Iguodala to get Aldridge, it would be losing his plethora of playoff experience, but Aldridge isn’t a bad substitute.

He has played on the big stage and flourished in his career, and the Heat need someone that they can count on in a seven-game series.

Clearly, Miami wouldn’t be acquiring the same player from the 2018-19 season, but Aldridge has outplayed Olynyk during the 2020-21 campaign and is simply a more proven player.

Aldridge’s ability to create his own shot is crucial in close games, and it can help take double teams away from Butler and Adebayo.

Miami needs a more consistent scorer and shooter in its lineup for the stretch run.

Whether it is by trade or in the buyout market, the Heat need to think long and hard about taking a chance on Aldridge.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.