Obscured by the line of injured players at the end of the bench, LaMarcus Aldridge's production has stagnated in the past two years, with an argument to be made that he has actually regressed this season. What are the holes in his game? There are three things we would all love to see from LaMarcus: increased scoring efficiency, an uptick in block rate, and more proficient rebounding.
Of the three, his block and rebounding rates are bothersome, but not a deal-breaker in this day of spread forwards. The truly frustrating statistic is his substandard True Shooting Percentage, where he rings in at 53.5%. To give context, Chris Bosh, David Lee, and Paul Millsap have True Shooting marks of 59.8%, 61.1%, and 58.6%, respectively.
Thus, we can definitely see that scoring efficiency is an issue with LaMarcus and his quest to become an All-Star caliber Power Forward. I would submit that this hole in his game could be patched, if not repaired wholly, with one simple coaching adjustment: tell him to shoot from beyond the arc.
Just to give an idea of how the pick-'n-pop-heavy Portland system seems to work with regards to Power Forwards, here is a brief look at Channing Frye, Juwan Howard, and Aldridge in recent years, information courtesy of HoopData. We will be looking at field goal attempts in the 16-23 foot range, or long-range two-point baskets.
While LaMarcus has hit at a lower percentage, his %AST rate shows that he is creating more of these shots on his own. Though I don't personally have access to the Synergy data to see his FG% on %AST vs. %UNAST, I think it's fair to surmise that his efficiency on long two-point baskets can be characterized as somewhat equivalent to the Channing Frye of 2008-2009.
Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that any shot attempt just inside of the three point line is inefficient. Let's look at a comparison of Channing Frye's last three seasons to get an idea of how he is faring in the desert, this time looking at both long 2s and the three point shot.
The glaring numbers in this chart:
• Instead of more than half of his shots being from the long two range, he is shooting from that distance on less than a quarter of his attempts.
• He now shoots threes at nearly the same rate that he used to shoot long distance 2s.
• The last column.
Wait a second, wasn't there another Blazer who originally attempted a large percentage of his shots from long two point range, but eventually worked his way out to three point land?
(I did ignore the current season, as his foot made it a rather small sample.)
Hey, this looks like a similar result to that of Channing Frye. An increase in three point attempts and a nice boost in scoring efficiency. It's amazing, how taking a shot that is worth more helps score more points.
Anyway, this is the point in the post that people begin to explode with arguments against LaMarcus attempting three pointers at a greater rate.
A "We don't want Sheed 2.0!"
B "Do you want him to be even LASOFTER?!"
C "Some people just can't step back that extra foot, you know."
Okay, well, in response to the group screaming A, I wish we had a 24-year-old Sheed 2.0 as the third cog on our aspiring team. To those chiming in with B, do you think that the extra few feet he would step back is the line of delineation that separates Charles Oakley from Vladimir Radmanovic?
Ah, C. To those who claim that LaMarcus may not be effective from 24 feet out top, there really isn't any data to suggest that he is able or unable. But the 22-foot corner three pointer? That's a different story. LaMarcus has shot 11-24 on corner three pointers in the last two seasons, with the data coming courtesy of NBA Hotspots. As painfully small as that sample size is, it shows that it would be a good endeavor to discover whether LaMarcus can be proficient with a steady diet of three point attempts. As he already takes 22-footers that only tally as two points, it logically follows that he should at least be shooting them at a different place on the court to increase efficiency.
Here are some projections for LaMarcus' potential efficiency, considering both potential three point percentage and three pointers attempted to end up with an estimated TS%. Note that this table combines the data from both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, in which he hit long 2s at a 40.3% clip and had a TS% of 53.04.
Also, I realize that many people would tell LaMarcus to get into the paint rather than take even more jumpers. To guard against him becoming Brian Cook, I only calculated data based on him converting long 2s into threes, rather than taking away shots closer to the basket.
|%Long 2s Replaced With 3PA|
To emphasize again, this isn't pleading with LaMarcus to step out of the paint and shoot jumpers all night long. It's simply asking him to step out a few more feet before firing. If he did this, he could substantially boost his scoring efficiency by becoming only a mediocre shooter from distance.
Is it really LaMarcus' fault, in the end? We run pick-'n-pop plays that end up with him 20 feet from the hoop; however, there is no reason that the Blazers can't utilize LaMarcus a little farther out with the pick, a la Steve Nash and Channing Frye or Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis.
It's basic and easy to implement. LaMarcus, please just step back a few feet before lettin' it rip.