I'm not sure how many of you guys have been following Aaron Mcguire's hilariously ambitious player profile project, but I thought it deserved some attention, as he's just finished up the final Blazers profile.
Since the offseason began, Aaron has been profiling every player who got minutes in the NBA last year. He is currently 357 capsules into the full set of 370. His full capsule directory is here, and his Blazers directory is here.
First of all…holy cow. Who on Earth actually has the dedication to do this, to say nothing of the knowledge it requires. I’ve read maybe 2/3 of them, and most are engaging and interesting. Though there’s very little he can really say about the myriad scrubs lying around the NBA, this quest has produced some very good writing. I highly recommend the capsules for Lebron James and Andre Miller, and most others raise some interesting point or new insight into the player. Although he tends to get a little high-handed with some of his analogies (Tim Duncan is salt!), the general quality of work is very good.
Anyways, we’re here for the Blazers, so lets talk about their capsules. It’s a rather slim crowd, given the number of rookies/Euros on our team. The bench players, in summary:
Luke Babbitt: Amazing amazing amazing (lol jk he’s not very good)
Ronnie Price: Not very good. But a pretty cool guy! But not very good.
Sasha Pavlovic: Not very good.
Nolan Smith: See Price, Ronnie, above.
Elliot Williams: Cool, good, injured.
Hey guys, I think I’ve found our problem! Our bench players, by and large, are quite simply not very good. This is big stuff. Someone should get on that.
Moving on to the interesting ones, we have Nic Batum, Wes Matthews, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Matthews’ capsule addresses his straight-up terrible at-rim finishing, and says he needs to shoot more. Sure. He says Wes’ defense is "solid, but not remarkable". Cool. Nothing super insightful here.
Batum’s capsule pointed out something that probably doesn’t get enough attention: his shot selection is fantastic. Per HoopData, he shoots 33% from both 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet. I don’t think we appreciate enough how great it is that only 20% of his shots come from those ranges. Contrast that with, say, Andre Iguodala, who shoots a phenomenal 76.6% at the rim, but insists on taking 3.6 threes per game, despite shooting a dismal 32.4% from deep. Good on you, Nic.
The rest of the profile discusses his defense (solid but occasionally lazy, as we know) and his prediction that he can average 5 assists per game this year. Come to think of it, that was pretty unrealistic, which makes it strange that he’s nearly there. Moving on…
LaMarcus Aldridge’s capsule, now that was interesting. Quite simply, he loves LMA. Some samples:
"To a man who likes watching big men work for their own offense, Aldridge is sublime -- he hearkens back to the days of McHale and Olajuwon, with a touch of a modern flair."
"(H)e's been an excellent defensive player for years and one of the top defenders at his position since 2010."
"He's humble. He's smart. He's got a compelling personal story and a lovely family."
"LaMarcus Aldridge rode into hell on a bald eagle made of platinum and strangled Satan with his own Bryant jersey."
Okay, I made that last one up. Point is, the piece is ridiculously complimentary. The part about his offensive game is certainly true; we’ve known for a while now that he’s one of the best, this year’s slow start notwithstanding . (By the way, as long as I’ve got a zillion Hoopdata, Synergy, and NBA.com tabs open, I should note that his FG% is up 5.4% in December from November, his rebounds are up 1.2, and his attempts from 16-23 ft are down 3.9 per game from their ridiculous November highs). But the defense? Is McGuire seeing something we’re not? Since the 2010-11 season, LA’s defensive rating is a 107, which is distinctly mediocre, in the company of esteemed stoppers like Matt Bonner and Channing Frye. But my feeling is that Aldridge’s defensive value isn’t going to be fully measured by the components of Drtg (Rebs, blocks, steals).
On-court/off-court data might clear up the picture for us: last year the Blazers’ Drtg was 103.7 (in this team context Drtg is points/100 possessions, not an estimate using box score stats like the version cited above). With LA on the floor, it was 100.8; with LA on the bench, it was 108.5. This is a rather huge swing, which would indicate that LA is a very good defensive player, improving his team’s defense by 7.7 points per 100 possessions. However, we must remember context. The Blazers last year were a nightmare defensively. The last few weeks of the season, in which LA was injured and the likes of Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn were getting major minutes, were an absolute bloodbath. This would tip the scale favorably toward Aldridge.
Another approach is through Synergy, though I have to point out that I’m a novice and that you should take the following with a grain of salt (acually that caveat applies to this whole article). McGuire says "He's better at covering the pick and roll than almost anyone in the league (excepting, of course, Garnett and Taj Gibson) and he's a solid defender in the low post." According to Synergy, LA gives up .58 points per possession on post-ups, good for sixth in the NBA. Defending the P&R roll man, he allows 1.04 points per possession. This is encouraging, but frankly I’m not sure our sample is big enough to evaluate his D using Synergy, at least without full video access.
So I’ll toss it out to you, people who still read Fanposts (do you exist?). Have we underrated Aldridge’s D? I think yes, but my judgement might be clouded by the slop playing the four off the bench, who make cromulence look like brilliance.
Anyways, this whole exercise was mostly an excuse for me to (a) play around on the internet and (b) not do my Spanish, English, and Psychology homework. Mission accomplished.