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Would Cole Aldrich Provide an Upgrade for the Blazers Frontcourt?

The Clippers reserve does many things better than Portland's current centers. High recommendation or faint praise?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Today's Blazer's Edge Mailbag deals with presumed Clippers free agent Cole Aldrich. How much of an upgrade would he become in the Portland Trail Blazers lineup?

Hello,

I don't know if this is how you get a question to you for "Mailbag" but...

Cole Aldrich of the Clippers is now a free agent. In just 13 minutes a game backing up Jordan he averaged more blocked shots per game than ANY Blazer player. He is bigger than any Blazer except maybe Leonard - 250 pounds, 6:11 with a 7"5 wingspan. Said to be a good teammate with good instincts and some mid-range game and a decent passer. His per 32.5 minute stats would be 12 rebounds, 2 assists 13.75 points and 2.75 blocks. AND he fits the age bracket we are looking for - he's 27. AND he won't cost near what Horford or Howard would. He could blossom like Prybzilla did and he is better than Zilla in most every aspect.

Stephen

Yup! You found it. You even got your question answered, mostly because of the nice legwork on the stats.

I like Cole Aldrich. Much like Bismack Biyombo with the Toronto Raptors, Aldrich was a good value-to-risk signing when he inked a short-term deal with the Los Angeles Clippers last summer. His ascent hasn't been Biyomboesque (which I hereby declare as the name of my new 80's New Wave cover band) and his ceiling isn't as high as Bismack's, but he'd still be a serviceable player.

Extrapolating from per-minute stats isn't a safe way to predict future performance, as you no doubt know. But if you're going to make that leap, rebounds and blocked shots are two of the safer categories in which to do so. Aldrich would produce for the Blazers in both departments. It's worth noting that his per-minute blocked shot rate currently doubles that of any current Portland rotation player.

"Mid-range shooting" is a generous interpretation of Cole's offense. 99% of his shots come within 10 feet of the hoop. In that he differs little from current Portland bigs. Breaking it down further offers a small wrinkle. Only 56% of Aldrich's shots came within 3 feet compared to 62% from Mason Plumlee and 75% from Ed Davis. The difference may seem slight, especially in comparison to Plumlee, but Aldrich made 52% of his attempts between 3-10 feet last season compared to 34% for Mason and 47% for Davis. It's a single-year trend, but Aldrich appears to have developed more range than either of Portland's big-rebounding, rim-bound players. His True Shooting Percentage also eclipses Plumlee's and Davis'. In no way, shape, or form is Aldrich an offensive juggernaut though. Scoring is the last thing you think about when considering his game.

Aldrich has always been pretty solid defending screens, definitely something the Blazers could use. He's not as quick as Portland's current bigs, save Chris Kaman of course. Then again, the Blazers don't always take advantage of big-man mobility on defense. They might be able to use a little less side-to-side speed and a little more staying home for the shot block.

The "Could blossom into Joel Przybilla" explanation leaves a couple things to be desired. In many ways Aldrich already has reached Przybilla level. He's as effective as Przy in most categories. He's not earned starter's minutes like Joel did in Portland but Przy got modest run compared to most first-unit players. Aldrich averaged 13.3 mpg for the Clippers last season. The most Przybilla ever averaged for the Blazers was 24.9. Adding 10 minutes to his nightly burden isn't going to ruin Aldrich's production.

However...

1. Aldrich has played (and produced) mostly against second units. We saw the joys and perils of that in Portland this year with Plumlee. The physical toll of starting wouldn't be a challenge but the experience and talent gaps between Aldrich and opposing starters could.

2. Przybilla started for the Blazers in two distinct eras with a single commonality: talented frontcourt players alongside him. Przy began his Portland journey platooning with Theo Ratliff alongside Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The next season Zach Randolph took over the power forward position. A couple years later LaMarcus Aldridge slid into that seat. Joel was effective as a starter because the Blazers didn't have to depend on him for scoring...ever. Aldrich would not be walking into the same situation. Aside from shot-blocking and the occasional 8-foot attempt, the Blazers already have much of what Aldrich would bring. They need more offense and more talent in the frontcourt, not the next Przybilla.

If the Blazers got that help elsewhere, Aldrich could be a solid pick-up. In isolation, he'd be a nice move but not much more. That's the idea behind snagging Al Horford or Dwight Howard...neither of whom Aldrich could replace. I could see Aldrich working alongside Horford (or even better Kevin Durant). But if the Blazers aren't getting those guys--or at least a Ryan Anderson--Aldrich won't provide an answer on his own.

As Stephen discovered, you can send your Mailbag questions to blazersub@gmail.com. Next week we'll look at even more odd and tantalizing free agent prospects. If you have a suggestion, get it in!

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard@Blazersedge