The Raptors have a very definite need at the center position, as the second half of this 2021 season began against the Atlanta Hawks when the Raptors fell 121-120. Names like Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, and San Antonio Spurs veteran LaMarcus Aldridge have surfaced as potential Aron Baynes replacements.
Baynes, signed in November, is averaging just 6.3 points per game and shooting 24.3 percent on three-point attempts. His rebounding of 5.6 per game hasn’t helped the team much either as they are last in the NBA rebounding the basketball.
If the Raptors are to improve on their 17-21 record, their undersized frontcourt has to get tougher, stronger, and better to improve upon their eighth-place standing in the NBA’s East and secure an eighth consecutive playoff berth.
The addition of 10-day contracts in Donta Hall and Henry Ellenson, who was spectacular with the Raptors 905, won’t necessarily help that much.
However, other options are presenting themselves as just before the All-Star Break, the Houston Rockets released DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond was sent home by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Aldridge’s name has also been added to the pot after he and San Antonio mutually agreed to part ways. Does he make sense for the Raptors?
Should the Toronto Raptors go after LaMarcus Aldridge?
This may be Toronto’s second opportunity to acquire the six-foot eleven power forward. They missed out on drafting him with the 2006 NBA Draft’s first-overall selection when they chose center Andrea Bargnani. For the historical record, while Bargnani stopped playing in the NBA in 2016, Aldridge is still going strong 15 years after the draft and is a seven-time All-Star.
Aldridge has amassed career averages of 19.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He has played in 21 games this season for the Spurs averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Aldridge is on an expiring contract paying him $24 million this season.
How the Raptors would benefit from adding LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge offers the Raptors frontcourt the size it is missing. He is big enough and mobile enough to handle Eastern Conference bigs like Joel Embiid. Career-wise, he has been both a strong rebounder and scorer in the NBA for most of his career. His scoring comes from the post or mid-range areas the Raptors struggle with getting points in their half-court offense.
The Raptors are 28th in the NBA, third-last, scoring points in the paint, and Aldridge could provide a frontcourt option for the Raptors lineup who can score around the basket.
While Aldridge is not a great shot blocker, he is averaging 0.9 per game this season for the Spurs, while Aron Baynes barely registers with 0.3 per game this season. Baynes does not intimidate or force opponents to alter shots needed from an aggressive switching defensive scheme employed by Toronto.
Aldridge was also masterful in the pick and roll or pick and pop back when he played with Damian Lillard in Portland. As it’s a staple play in the Raptors’ offense, if head coach Nick Nurse would push his guards to give up the ball to a player like Aldridge, this is another way he could help the Raptors’ halfcourt efficiency.
The cons of LaMarcus Aldridge joining the Toronto Raptors
There are a couple of ways the Raptors could work a deal to acquire Aldridge, assuming he does not get a buyout. However, with wild rumors swirling around Kyle Lowry, trading Lowry straight-up in a deal of expiring contracts with the Spurs sending a draft pick with Aldridge for Lowry seems unlikely.
That leaves moving a useful and productive Norman Powell, Aron Baynes, Stanley Johnson, and/or Patrick McCaw to acquire Aldridge. This also seems like a lot to acquire a dwindling star at age 35 who would be a rental until the season’s end. A starting center that can impact games and dominate does not describe Aldridge’s play these days.
But the question is always, is it worth it? Aldridge’s numbers are way down, especially his rebounding at just 4.5 per game. He would not really aid the Raptors in that category. Further, he takes less than four three-point shot attempts per game and is not really a long-range shooter.
Aldridge operates best in the mid-range, and it is unlikely Nick Nurse will add enough wrinkles in the offense to make Aldridge effective, considering he won’t be a Raptor after the season.
However, it all boils down to how badly Raptors’ management feels about extending their playoff streak to eight straight years. Aldridge could help, but he is a flawed option if the Raptors choose to go this route to address their problem at center.