The case for Cole Aldrich

I was fairly obsessed with Jeff Withey throughout this last NCAA season, and was vocal in many Blazers Edge posts about how badly I wanted him to be playing for the Trail Blazers in October. The intelligent folks of the BE community did well in their response, either agreeing or letting me know their concerns about his weight, speed, P&R defense, and overall ability to transfer his game to the pros. One concern I heard, both from BE and in other articles about Withey, was his comparison to the Jayhawks' last great shot-blocking center, who has spent his three NBA seasons in relative obscurity. That's when I began looking into Cole Aldrich.

In this post, I'll first discuss the areas that piqued my interest about Cole (we'll use his first name throughout, to stave off Aldrich/Aldridge confusion), then the most common concerns that I have come across about him. Lastly, we'll look at some comparisons, and I'll let you know why they make me feel like those concerns are largely either unfounded or ill-founded.

1) The Basics

The first thing that struck me about Cole was his NCAA stat line. In the 26.8 minutes per game he played his Junior year, he posted 11.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks. The per-40 numbers on that are 16.9 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 5.2 blocks. By comparison, Gorgui Dieng's per-40 stats this season were 12.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks.

The second thing that struck me was his size. 6' 11", 240 pounds, and nursing a 7' 4.75" wingspan, Cole's body is as NBA-ready as they come. Pair this with his stats and his Kansas pedigree, and I begin my search feeling intrigued about the guy.

Then April came.

On April 14th, Cole posted 12 points (6-7 shooting), 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 26 minutes against Houston. The next day, he put up 12 points (6-6 shooting) and 13 rebounds in 23 minutes against OKC. These games turned intrigue into optimism, and really made we want to learn all I could about him.

2) The Concerns

The concerns I've read are fairly consistent about Cole, and are as follows:

1. He's slow.

2. He was part of Bill Self's system, and the other Self NBA big men aren't doing much.

3. He hasn't seen many minutes at all in the NBA, and that's got to be for a reason.

3b. OKC only played him a few minutes in a few games while he was there, and they needed a center like the one he's supposed to be.

4. He's got a pretty clumsy-looking shot.

My rebuttals for these are scattered below.

3) The Comparisons

First, let's discuss Cole's numbers.

It's a bit difficult to compile stats from games in which a player saw fewer than 10 minutes. Cole averaged 7.1 minutes per game for his 30 games with the Rockets this last season, and 11.7 per game in his 15 games with the Kings. I was tempted to post only the per-36 data from his Kings stint, but felt that this overestimated certain areas and underestimated others. For that reason, I've also included separate categories for 2012-2013 per-36 stats from all games with 10 or more minutes of play, 15 or more minutes of play, and 20 or more minutes of play. I think we can pull a more reasonable stat line from the aggregate:

With Kings, per 36 minutes: 10.3 P, 13.0 R, 2.9 B, 3.9 PF, 1.9 T (3.3 P, 4.2 R, 0.9 B in 11.7 min).

For season, 10+ minutes: 9.7 P, 11.4 R, 2.1 B, 5.1 PF, 1.9 T

For season, 15+ minutes: 10.4 P, 12.2 R, 2.3 B, 3.7 PF, 1.7 T

For season, 20+ minutes: 14.8 P, 15.2 R, 2.3 B, 3.0 PF, 2.5 T

To be fair, we'll try to be conservative about his stats. Let's assume that the 20+ stats are a little inflated and the 10+ are a little deflated. The Kings-exclusive stats and the 15+ are pretty similar, so here we'll act as though all his '12-'13 stats are the lower figures among those two: 10.3 P, 12.2 R, 2.3 B, 3.9 PF, 1.9 TO

Of the concerns mentioned earlier, only one can really be addressed by the below statistics. The qualms about Cole's speed can be analyzed with one of the few really useful parts of the Pre-Draft Combine - the agility and 3/4 court sprint tests. I've included these numbers below, and have compiled a list of the agility and sprint times of several good-to-elite current NBA centers, a few potential draftees, a couple notoriously bad centers, and LaMarcus Aldridge. I've also listed the age of each player in their third NBA season, their minutes played that season, and their per-36 stats in points, rebounds, blocks, personal fouls, and turnovers. The emboldened stats are those areas in which Cole's 3rd-season production meets or exceeds that of the given player. We'll begin with Cole's stats, then go alphabetically from there.

Agility @ Combine (Speed @ Combine) / (MPG, 3rd NBA season) Stats per 36, 3rd NBA sn (Age, 3rd NBA sn)

Cole Aldrich - 11.48 (3.35) / 10.3 P, 12.2 R, 2.3 B, 3.9 PF, 1.9 TO (24)

Steven Adams - 11.85 (3.40) / NA

LMA - 12.02 (3.43) / (37.1 MIN) 17.6 P, 7.3 R, 0.9 B, 2.5 PF, 1.5 T (23)

Kwame Brown - 11.59 (3.45) / (30.3 MIN) 12.9 P, 8.8 R, 0.8 B, 2.3 PF, 2.3 T (21)

Tyson Chandler - 12.13 (3.36) / (22.3 MIN) 9.8 P, 12.4 R, 2.0 B, 4.0 PF, 1.7 T (21)

DeMarcus Cousins - 11.40 (3.55) / (30.5 MIN) 20.1 P, 11.7 R, 0.9 B, 4.2 PF, 3.5 T (22)

Rudy Gobert - 12.85 (3.57) / NA

Marcin Gortat - 11.48 (3.33) / (13.4 MIN) 9.7 P, 11.3 R, 2.3 B, 4.6 PF, 1.5 T (25)

Roy Hibbert - N/A / (27.7 MIN) 16.4 P, 9.8 R, 2.3 B, 4.1 PF, 3.0 T (24)

Al Horford - 12.15 (3.37) / (35.1 MIN) 14.5 P, 10.1 R, 1.2 B, 2.8 PF, 1.5 T (23)

Dwight Howard - 11.21 (3.14) / (36.9 MIN) 17.2 P, 12.0 R, 1.9 B, 2.9 PF, 3.8 T (21)

DeAndre Jordan - 12.30 (3.27) / (25.6 MIN) 10.0 P, 10.1 R, 2.5 B, 4.5 PF, 1.8 T (22)

JaVale McGee - 12.75 (3.25) / (27.8 MIN) 13.1 P, 10.4 R, 3.2 B, 3.8 PF, 1.7 T (23)

Greg Monroe - 12.10 (3.35) / (33.2 MIN) 17.4 P, 10.4 R, 0.7 B, 2.5 PF, 3.1 T (22)

Joakim Noah - 11.79 (3.47) / (30.1 MIN) 12.8 P, 13.2 R, 1.9 B, 3.7 PF, 2.2 T (24)

Greg Oden - 11.67 (3.27) / NA

Joel Przybilla - NA / (17.1 MIN) 3.2 P, 9.6 R, 3.0 B, 5.6 PF, 1.3 T (23)

Larry Sanders - 12.49 (3.27) / (27.3 MIN) 12.9 P, 12.5 R, 3.7 B, 4.3 PF, 1.6 T (24)

Tiago Splitter - 11.65 (3.38) / (24.7 MIN) 15.1 P, 9.3 R, 1.2 B, 2.9 PF, 1.8 T (28)

Hasheem Thabeet (4th season, only 7.0 MIN in 3rd season) - N/A / (11.7) 7.5 P, 9.1 R, 2.8 B, 6.9 PF, 1.9 T (25)

Jeff Withey - 12.49 (3.47) / NA

4) Conclusion

Cole Aldrich is not slow. From a numbers standpoint, at least. I can attest that he doesn't look slow in games, either. He gets up and down the floor well, and hustles at the block. If all we have to work with is numbers and the eyeball test, he is a fairly quick center.

I have no real answer to the Bill Self concern, as it is too much of a blanket statement. I also can't claim to know why he has not seen more NBA minutes, except to say that his first two seasons were spent between the D-League and an established playoff team that already had Perkins and Collison, and his third season saw him behind Asik and a shiny new D-Mo. He never averaged more than 10 minutes a game until he was traded to the Kings, and he did very well with the minutes he had there.

I have no argument about his shot. He does this hyper-fast-hook-shot thing that's kind of weird.

Lastly, I am just optimistic about the guy. I think he could be the perfect storm of underutilized talent and work ethic. A garbage-man type in the vein of Przybilla, but possibly more productive.

Comments? Thoughts? Critiques?

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