No, LaMarcus Aldridge Does Not Belong in Denver

There’s always some trade rumor. In this case, it’s suggested possibility from an NBA executive. Here’s why it makes no sense:

A report came out on December 2nd from HoopsHype in which an NBA executive suggested that Denver would be a good fit for LaMarcus Aldridge in the trade market. That executive was wrong.

The exact quote (per HoopsHype) was:

“Maybe Denver could be a destination for Aldridge,” a Western Conference executive mentioned to HoopsHype. “If they think he can play the 4, it could make sense. He probably can’t play the 4 at this stage, but I don’t know how other front offices feel. Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee for LaMarcus is one possible trade scenario.”

There’s plenty of reasons as to why this is bad, but I’ll outline here the three most obvious.

Aldridge’s Spacing: (or lack thereof)

LaMarcus Aldridge has established the mid-range shot as a staple of his game. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this, but the Nuggets already shoot too many midrange shots as is. The Nuggets are 5th in the NBA in all two-point shots not at the rim (per Cleaning the Glass). The floater has become a team wide plague at times when the offense becomes stagnant.

LaMarcus Aldridge is about average in terms of Points per shot this year (per CTG), but on decent volume (23.3 USG%). This signifies that he is, in fact, a good offensive player. However, on a team which is already so dependent on the midrange, the fit is impossible. Nikola Jokic is a player who requires spacing. Clogging up the paint with even more midrangers would grind the offense to a standstill. Aldridge is noticeably slower, and has never offered a ton in terms of off-ball movement. Aldridge’s complete lack of ability to space the floor would ultimately suffocate the Jokic-centric Nuggets offense. The struggles that Jokic has had so far would not be remedied by an aging, slow, mid-range shooting big.

I mean, just look at his shot chart:

 

Aldridge’s Salary:

LaMarcus Aldridge is set to make $26 Million this year, and $24 Million through the 2020-21 season. This type of money does not fit in the timeline of the Nuggets, nor is it viable for them immediately. The package that would supposedly grab Aldridge for Denver mentioned in the report included both Mason Plumlee and Malik Beasley. The combined outgoing salary there would be just  under $17 Million. With the incoming salary of Aldridge, the additional $9 million would send Denver into the luxury tax.

The first issue here is that Kroenke wouldn’t pay the luxury tax, so in speculation, hopefully there wouldn’t be other moves to offload salary. Past this, I’m not opposed to entering the luxury tax. However, entering the tax for a player who does not move the needle is something that should be rejected. Obviously he wouldn’t start at center. The executive suggests sliding him to play the 4. Would that help Denver at all?

According to PIPM (Player Impact Plus-Minus), Paul Millsap has been significantly better on both offense and defense than LaMarcus Aldridge, (not to mention his superior floor spacing).

Millsap: 1.25 O-PIPM / 1.92 D-PIPM / 3.17 PIPM

Aldridge: 0.19 O-PIPM / -0.71 D-PIPM / -0.53 PIPM

These numbers are telling. Millsap would be the starter undoubtedly. The Nuggets would have to play Aldridge off the bench. At this point you ask: Are you willing to go $9 Million into the luxury tax for a bench big with no spacing? Are the Nuggets willing to bring on an additional $24 million to the books for next year?

The clear answer should be an adamant no to both of these questions.

Aldridge’s Positional fit:

The GM thinks that moving Aldridge to the 4 could work, but that causes other issues. With the logjam at the 4 that the Nuggets are already dealing with, (mostly from Millsap and Grant, but fitting in Porter and Juancho), Aldridge’s presence only complicates that.

In this hypothetical trade, there would be a vacuum at the backup center position, with Denver sending out Mason Plumlee. Maybe he could fit there?

Well, the bench unit this year has had two major issues. A lack of spacing and occasional defensive concerns. Aldridge does not remedy this in the slightest, as these are his most glaring issues as well. In fact, this trade bodes worse for the bench in both of those categories, as Denver would be losing their best bench shooter (Beasley), and their best bench interior defender (Plumlee).

Between the complete lack of spacing and fit, as well as the salary cap issues. There is no reason why Denver should pursue LaMarcus Aldridge.

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