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Blazer Season Preview Part 14: Lamarcus Aldridge

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I suppose I do have a leg up on most folks in judging Lamarcus, having seen him in person in Summer League.  Anybody who watched him play at Texas though feel free to add on.

Lamarcus Aldridge
Height: 6'10" (6'11"?)
Weight: 237-240lbs
Age:  21
Position:  Forward/Center

Assets

--The most noticeable thing about Lamarcus is that he's smooth.  He moves with effortless grace that belies his height.  He's quick to elevate and has good timing.  He'll be a good transition player too, having good up and down speed for a guy his size.

--He also knows where to be on the floor.  You can tell he's been coached by somebody.  I seldom saw him out of position.

--He has his eye out for the ball and doesn't appear to drop it.

--He has a couple of post moves already and should develop more as he works on it full-time.  His spin and release are as smooth as the rest of his game.  He may never develop a ton of flash but he looks to be one of those guys who could be clockwork dependable.

--The boy can rebound.  He'll be a little bit of a shot blocker too.

Challenges

--The one mentioned most often is his body.  His strength and bulk need major work before he's NBA-post ready.  He'll finesse in a shot or two but he's going to get pushed around and hacked way too much to leave in the game for long stretches.

--He had injuries in college and now he's starting off his NBA career with another one.

--He's not a good passer.  We have too much of that.

--Neither is he a free throw guy.  We have too much of that too.

--Some talk about his heart but I haven't seen that yet so I say we give him the benefit of the doubt there.

--He's at least a year away from contributing significantly.  I suppose how big of a problem that is depends on your mindset.  If you're looking at the long-term picture because the short-term will be gruesome no matter what it shouldn't bother you.  On the other hand one expects a little more immediate return from the second overall pick in the draft than Aldridge is likely to provide.

If I were playing against Aldridge I would slow the game down and body, body, body him all day long.  I'd pump fake on offense and then jump into him.  On defense I don't let him outrun me down the court.  I figure he can't cause me major problems unless he comes free unguarded.  I'd actually let him get around me for his first rebound and as he grabbed it I'd lay an elbow across his face or jab it into his kidney.  I'd want to know how many more he'd go for after that.

When I think of LA's game I think Jermaine O'Neal but WITHOUT the freakish athleticism that makes the latter a superstar.  He's about running, leaping, quickness off his feet, and a tricky, mutli-faceted inside game.  He doesn't have JO's amazing verticality or chiseled strength though.  Maybe the best way to put it is right now he looks like what O'Neal would have been had he just turned out average.  He's listed most places as a forward/center but I have a hard time seeing him playing against serious power forwards right now, let alone manning the middle.  

It's not that Lamarcus would embarrass you if you threw him out there.  He's smart and gifted enough to play decent.  This isn't an early Travis Outlaw thing.  The problem is he'd probably get you 6 points and 3 rebounds while giving up 8 and 6 to the opponents.  

I'm very interested to see what LA looks and plays like next summer.  That ought to be his coming out party.  Anything this year is a bonus.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)