Hey, fellow Blazers Edgers. It's your boy Rip City Mike, back from his self-imposed hiatus. I'm sorry I haven't been able to post, etc. consistently, I'll try to get a high quality article out every week.
This week's article is an in-depth analysis of LaMarcus Aldridge. I'll analyze his strengths, weaknesses, needs for improvement, and share my opinion about his recent play after the jump.
As always, comments, recommendations, and critiques are all welcomed and desired.
*Thanks to NBA.com for stats and photo.
I've got to say it- LaMarcus is pretty much my favorite Blazer. He can pretty much be categorized as a "finesse" power forward- he's faster and lighter than most of his other fellow power forwards, and relies on outside shooting more than most other power forwards. A player that he can sometimes be compared to is Dirk Nowitzki; however, instead of Nowitzki's patented turnaround jumper (well, technically not a jumper since Dirk oftentimes keeps a foot planted on the ground) at the top of the free throw line, Aldridge's go-to shot is a feathery turnaround 18-footer on the baseline.
LaMarcus' outside game isn't complete yet; he still needs to add a good three-point shot. In fact, he seems only to take three point shots when the shot clock is near 0, or when the Blazers are down big and need a three. Now, past the half-way mark of the season, LaMarcus has only made 5 three-point field goals. He has only attempted 15. Interestingly enough, Aldridge will often routinely make field goal attempts a foot or two in front of the three point line off the pick and pop. In spite of the fact that he's not a great three point shooter, opposing teams have to seriously adjust their gameplan against LaMarcus. It's not very often that you can find a power forward that can shoot as well as he can; it's also an added benefit that other team's cannot foul him in the post like they would to other big men such as Shaq; Aldridge is a great free throw shooter, with a career average floating around 76.4%. However, his ability to sink free throws in the clutch has been a point where he needs improvement. In the Dallas Mavericks game where Andre Miller scored 52, he had two free throws with less than 30 seconds left in the game. He missed both.
Career 3PT%: 25.0%
Career FT%: 76.4%
Career FG%: 48.8%
Career PPG: 15.7
Season PPG: 16.9 (season high)
Post Game- Offense
Interestingly enough, LaMarcus is the tallest healthy Trail Blazer. Towering at 6'11, he plays the power forward position. Juwan Howard, the starting center, is listed as 6'9. It seems to me that this year, with the season ending injury that Greg Oden suffered, that the Blazers were forced to give the ball to LaMarcus in the post more and more. With this year, we've seen LaMarcus add a running jump hook to his repertoire. In fact, it's his go-to move in the post on offense, and we've seen him implement it with a great deal of success. However, LaMarcus sometimes finds himself getting in trouble with this move. If he gets deep enough in the post, he'll make this field goal a large percentage of the time. However, if he's higher up in the paint, he will sometimes be flagged with an offensive foul for pushing off of his defender to create space. This has been happening less and less as he's grown more comfortable with this move, but will still happen on occasion.
LaMarcus Aldridge, as I've said before, is not a player who particularly enjoys playing in the post. He's more of a finesse guy, and his tendencies lie towards shooting the mid-range jump shot, a shot that he finds open more often than not. This has given him a decent amount of success, but the next step that he has to take in order to become a dominant PF is to become more comfortable in the post. I'm not saying that LaMarcus has to abandon his mid-range game; because that would be bone-headed and shallow. I'm saying that LaMarcus needs to augment his mid-ranged game with a good post game. In the half-court offense, I'm not saying that 50% of LaMarcus' field goal percentages should come from the post, and 50% mid range, because I don't think Aldridge will ever be that type of player. He should, however, strive to find a good balance, and learn to be more comfortable as part of the offense in the post. These changes have led LaMarcus to have increased success offensively, and he is scoring career highs in field goal percentage and points per game.
Season FG%: 49.1% (career high)
Season PPG%: 16.9 (career high)
It seems obvious to me. More time in the paint probably would lead to higher rebounding numbers. To a point, this has been true; Aldridge has seen his total rebounding numbers rise to a career high 8.2 rebounds per game this season. He's been far more active defensively, and has improving on his boxing out, and is averaging a career high 5.9 defensive rebounds a game. Because Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham have been hitting the boards like crazy, LaMarcus hasn't had to do that. That's led to a slight decrease of offensive rebounds per game to an average of 2.3 (down from 2.6). That's not really a letdown; with lingering injuries to key members of the team, not having to hit offensive boards as hard as last year leaves LaMarcus more energy, which he has been needing as he is the focal point of the Blazers offense with Brandon Roy and Greg Oden injured.
Season RPG: 8.2 (career high)
Career RPG: 7.1
Season OFF RPG: 2.3
Career OFF RPG: 2.6
LaMarcus Aldridge is a quicker power forward, no doubt about it. He has a great wingspan, a good vertical jump, and rapid-fire hands. LaMarcus is an adept defender, but not an amazing one. Compared to other players, I would rate him as slightly above average. LaMarcus' help defense isn't the best; but the Blazers as a whole are a somewhat shaky defensive team at times, and help defense is an area where they need to improve on as a team. Despite a 6'11 frame and a good vertical jump, LaMarcus Aldridge is only averaging 1.0 blocks per game for his career. His numbers are significantly lower this year, as he is averaging a career low 0.5 blocks per game. Getting more blocks is something that Aldridge needs to really improve on. Blocks often lead to fast outlet passes, which often lead to fast break points. The adage goes "Defense leads to offense." In the Blazers' half-court offense, cheap points are hard to come by. Guards Miller and Bayless thrive in the open court, and getting more blocks as part of the Blazers' defensive production from LaMarcus' part would elevate the offense of these two players.
One thing that LaMarcus does a good job on is deflections. With his lanky arms, he swats away passes, which causes turnovers. He uses his quickness and speed to play defense. Aldridge isn't strong enough to guard a Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, or Brooks Lopez. He is, however, fast enough and tall enough to shut down a Carlos Boozer or Rashard Lewis. Another strength of LaMarcus' defense is that he doesn't commit a lot of fouls per game. He averages only 2.9 fouls per game this season and 2.88 fouls per game in his career.
Season BPG: 0.5 (season low)
Career BPG: 1.0
Season Fouls PG: 2.90
Career Fouls PG: 2.88
LaMarcus Aldridge's Major Strengths
Great mid-range jump shot
- Good field goal percentage
- Improving post game
- Runs the fast break as well as any other big
- Improving defensive rebounding
- Quicker than many other PFs
LaMarcus Aldridge's Major Weaknesses
Softness in the offensive post at times
- Needs to be a more physical defender
- Weaker than many PFs
- Needs to improve help-side defense
LaMarcus Aldridge's Room for Improvement
Incorporate 3 PT field goals into offense/pick and pop
- Work on weak side defense
- Improve blocking ability
- Improve on offensive post game- get another move than the running jump hook
One last thing. I always like to end my posts on a positive note; so here's a video of our L-Train stuffing into the ugly, hair-gel infused dome of Chris Andersen. Where are your wings now, Birdman?