Derek Jeter is widely viewed as one of the best players in baseball. He's paid like it (one of the 4 Yankees who make up the 4 highest paid players in the game) and is always voted into the All-Star game.
There's only one problem--- he's not even in the top 5 at his position. Jeter is an excellent offensive player, but his defense is quite poor, as the advanced defensive metrics have repeatedly shown. Why is this not widely recognized? Because to the eye, Jeter's defense looks fantastic-- you watch his jump throws from deep in the hole and your jaw drops. You are so impressed that you don't realize that (a) Jeter didn't actually range that far to get the ball and (b) there is no need to jump there... you just plant and fire. That way your momentum isn't going away from the base.
Derek Jeter *looks* like a good defensive player, but the numbers show that he just isn't. He costs his team about 4 runs a season relative to an average defensive shortstop. All told, at least one well known Sabermetric blog has him as baseball's 9th best shortstop.
How does this relate to LaMarcus Aldridge? Well, LaMarcus has the look of a dominant basketball player. You see him knock a pass away at one end and jam it on the other and you are wowed (I am too). You see him hit 3 straight smooth looking jump shots and you are understandably impressed-- he looks so natural doing it.
The problem is that this distracts us from what matters-- effectiveness (as opposed to style). Take tonight's game. LaMarcus was having one of his better shooting games... and he still scored 22 points on 19 shots, for a decent but not overwhelming True Shooting % of 56.6... which would be good enough for 21st among PFs if he did it for a full season...and this was one of his *good* shooting games. Now think about his 5 for 18 games. For the season, LMA's TS% is 50th among PFs... between Joe Smith and Jason Thompson. In the game thread, the point was raised that we needed to go to LMA because nobody else had it going. I acknowledged that this was a valid point, but I think this makes it clear that LMA really can't be a #1 option... and probobly isn't the best #2 either.
Now, let's talk about defense. LaMarcus Aldridge sometimes looks amazing on defense. He'll block 2 shots on 1 possession. He'll switch onto Steve Nash out front and force a tough shot. He'll deflect a pass. Watch him try to stop a decent interior scorer 1 on 1 though. You won't like what you see. Tonight his opposite at the PF position scored 19 points on 9 field goal attempts... for a True Shooting % of 81.6... which is off the charts. Its just one game, but this happens far too often with LMA.
In summary, players like Allen Iverson who can make your jaw drop sometimes make you miss the fact that they aren't really helping your team that much. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of these players, ranking as the 7th most overrated player in the NBA last year, according to one well known source. UPDATE: Other players on this list (and I'm using the Wages of Wins Journal to help me out here) include Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and to a lesser extent Tracy McGrady and Carmelo Anthony. Pay close attention, and I think you'll see what I mean.
Finally, let me conclude by saying that I hope I'm wrong about LMA. I hope he can develop into an above average defender and an efficient shooter. There's still time for him to do so, as he's just 23 years old. I think he's a good guy and he's very fun to watch (I love it when he swoops in for a rebound jam or runs the break to finish with authority). I would like nothing more than for him to succeed and make me eat my words. I'm just not that optomistic that it will happen. Thanks for reading and giving me a chance to explain where I'm coming from when I criticize LMA. I hope I haven't offended anyone. No hard feelings.
UPDATE #2: JK47's comment below perfectly sums up the opposite point of view to mine:
Lamarcus gets it and he is absolutely the 4 this team needs. He’ll get better at D with age. You can’t teach that stroke he has and that little hook across the lane is becoming very effective. His post play has improved dramatically and this is only his 3rd year. Juggle stats until you’re blue in the face. He’s already very good and he has the tools to be great.
This is what I'm talking about-- LMA indeed has a great looking jumper and hook... but that's style and he hasn't figured out how to be effective with those tools yet. Its this type of analysis (used by many respected basketball minds so JK47 is in great company) that I'm trying to provide an alternative to.
With this post, I feel I've finally laid out exactly where I'm coming from with LMA. Much to the relief of BlazersEdge (in particular LaMarvelous and Raoulduke), this will be my last post on the subject. In the future, if I think people are overrating LMA, I will simply link to this post so that people can see my point and either agree with it or not. I will no longer beat the dead horse.