The Season in Review: LaMarcus Aldridge

We're going to run down the roster alphabetically as we review individual seasons which puts LaMarcus Aldridge in the lead-off spot.

I'm going to provide stats in each of these posts.  There are hundreds of possible combinations to choose from.  I'm going to stick to basics with a couple of usually-indicative advanced stats thrown in.  I'll also give you links to more in-depth information if you want to go farther.

 

Games Played 81
Games Started 81
Minutes per Game 37.1
Points per Game 18.1
FG ATT per Game 15.3
FG% 48.4%
3PT ATT per Game 0.3
3PT% 25.0%
FT ATT per Game 4.1
FT% 78.1%
Off Rebs per Game 2.9
Def Rebs per Game 4.6
Total Rebs per Game 7.5
Assists 1.9
Steals 1.0
Blocks 1.0
Turnovers 1.5
Personal Fouls 2.6
Effective FG% 48.6%
PER 19.1
Plus/Minus +5.98

 

 

This was another solid season for LaMarcus Aldridge.  He started the year somewhat sporadically as the arrival of Greg Oden pushed him out of the low post offensive position into which he had been unceremoniously shoved the two years prior.  Though he still produced double-digit scoring figures almost every night his offense looked tentative.  As the season progressed and Oden stalled offensively LaMarcus began to re-assert himself.  By the time Greg went down in February he was primed to assert himself as a leading scorer alongside Brandon Roy.  In the first 54 games of the season LaMarcus scored 20 or more points 19 times.  After the Oden injury he topped 20 in 14 of the Blazers' last 28 games.  The Blazers went to him in all phases of the shot clock and in multiple situations, a sure sign of their developing reliance on him as an offensive plank.

Despite that LaMarcus' overall point production remained about the same as last season.  He played 2.2 minutes more per game, adding only 0.3 points to his scoring average.  His field goal percentage remained dead even at 48.4%.  His gain in fouls drawn was negligible.  This highlights one of the problematic aspects of Aldridge's game.  Two out of every three shots he takes is a mid-range jumper.  Though he's proficient at hitting them, particularly on the turn-around, it's difficult to generate more points with that style without just baldly taking more shots.  LaMarcus doesn't generate free throws at a star-scorer level.  He's not a three-point shooter either.  (He could be, perhaps, but it would be hard to regard that as an optimal use of his height and talent.)  That lack of extra points is a millstone around his overall production.  His effective field goal percentage backs that up.

Defensively LMA showed more awareness this year than in years past.  He seldom got hung up out of position.  He averaged fewer blocks but he made more stops and created more problems for the opponent in his rotations.  Still he's not what you'd call a threatening post defender, particularly when matched one-on-one against a stronger opponent.  Teams worry far more about LaMarcus' offense than his defense.

LaMarcus does get offensive rebounds but his rebounding production in all categories remained stagnant this year.  One could argue that Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden hog up a disproportionate number of rebounds but when they were being taken out of the game in the playoff series against the Rockets LaMarcus was only able to step up intermittently...this while being matched against legitimate power forwards.

On the whole, however, LaMarcus provided a significant positional advantage for the Blazers over other power forwards.  His PER of 19.1 is good but his PER advantage over other power forwards is +6 which borders on phenomenal.  Whatever strengths or weaknesses he has in his game, Aldridge is still a tough matchup.

This is less true when LaMarcus slides over to center.  Except for field goal percentage his stats were lower at the 5 and his positional advantages all but disappeared.  Whatever the Blazers may make of the small lineup in spurts Aldridge probably won't be a long-term option in the middle.

Two numbers stick out to LaMarcus' credit more than any other this year.  First, he played 81 out of 82 games, his first (nearly) full season in the league.  His body held up and he looked just as fresh and active at the end of the season as he did at the outset.  Second, the plus-minus of nearly 6 speaks volumes about his value to this team.  That stat can betray you in small slices but over the course of a season it's properly indicative.  This team plays better, particularly offensively, when LaMarcus is an option in the lineup.  The pressure on everybody else goes up when he's not in the game.

With a few more trips to the hole, a couple more fouls drawn, and a pair of defensive rebounds or so LaMarcus Aldridge could be a decent-sized star in this league.  Even now without those things happening he is a star in the Blazers' universe.  The team is not in their comfort zone without him.  He may be the least replaceable member of this squad right now when you factor in his effect on the game and the strength of the players behind him.  For your third year and for playing on a 54-win team that's not bad.

The main question facing LaMarcus is how badly he wants to improve his game.  He could easily make a nice NBA career playing at his current level.  The Blazers will need more from him, as would any team that wants to feature him and plans to win a championship.  He's just shy of star-level now and might have the potential to hit near-superstar status.  How far he progresses up that ladder will depend largely on his off-season work ethic and his burning desire to win at any cost (including getting banged and bumped getting to the hole) during the regular season and playoffs.  The physical part of his game is coming along nicely.  He has the tools.  Can he put them all together and employ them with passion?

Outside of a Chris-Paul-level deal LaMarcus isn't going anywhere.  Over-the-hill stars won't pry him away from the Blazers.  Promising youngsters won't either.  It would take an Olympian in their prime to make Portland even blink at this point.  LMA is at the heart of the promising young core of this team and is likely to be there for a long time.

What do you see in LaMarcus' game?  What areas did he progress in this year and what more do you want from him?  Is he the starting power forward of the future for this team or do you foresee a change down the road?

Bone up on more stats at 82Games.com and BasketballReference.com.

If you haven't read the conversation guidelines governing these threads, please take a look before commenting.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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