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San Antonio Spurs: 3 goals for LaMarcus Aldridge in 2017-18

By Rob Wolkenbrod
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the game against the Eastern Conference All-Star in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game on February 15, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the game against the Eastern Conference All-Star in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game on February 15, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs stretches before the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on MAY 22, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs stretches before the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on MAY 22, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

LaMarcus Aldridge enters his third season for the San Antonio Spurs. What should he aim to achieve?

The San Antonio Spurs brought LaMarcus Aldridge back for his third season with the team. He signed a four-year deal in 2015, with a player option for the 2018 offseason, so nothing is guaranteed for his future after the 2017-18 season.

Around the 2017 NBA Draft, it looked like Aldridge’s days in San Antonio were numbered. He was on the trade block just one day before the selection show, but nothing materialized. Afterward, his name was hardly mentioned in the offseason rumor mill.

Aldridge already went through media day and training camp, with questions on the offseason rumors addressed. It didn’t seem to phase him, so his focus can move toward what he’ll do this season.

Addressing off-season trade rumors @aldridge_12 says "it's part of the NBA. Guys move around. It happens. I'm used to it," pic.twitter.com/Ovem2Ush12

— Jim Lefko (@jimlefko) September 25, 2017

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The 2016-17 season was one of Aldridge’s worst statistical seasons. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, his lowest totals since the 2008-09 season as a 23-year-old. The following years represented growth for his game, but will the succeeding seasons of his most recent stat line represent decline?

Aldridge’s 2017-18 season will be at age 32, as he looks to be part of a contending team in the Western Conference. He and the Spurs made the Western Conference Finals in May, but were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It caused the Dallas, TX native to miss his first NBA Finals appearance.

To achieve that success, the Spurs will need quality production from Aldridge for the full 82-game season. To get there, he can target statistical goals that will help the team, along with an individual objective. How will this be possible?

Next: Improve 3-point shooting

OAKLAND, CA – MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs warms up before the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 14, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA – MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs warms up before the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 14, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

3. Improve 3-point shooting

For most the decade, the San Antonio Spurs turned to floor spacing and 3-point shooting for their offense. It wasn’t the typical Gregg Popovich style, as he had Tim Duncan and David Robinson to feed in the post for years. Times were changing in the NBA, however, so the team adapted to the new look of the league.

When LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Spurs, he wasn’t known for his outside shooting at all. He flashed a mid-range game with the Portland Trail Blazers and over the past two years in San Antonio, but rarely stepped behind the 3-point line. Is it time for that to change?

LaMarcus Aldridge said he worked on his long-range jumper all summer. The proof is here. pic.twitter.com/dHNnbuFJqs

— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) September 30, 2017

At training camp, Aldridge spoke about Popovich’s desire for him to shoot more 3-pointers. It was something the 11-year pro sounded open to, but with a wait-and-see indication for the results.

3-point shooting isn’t a completely foreign ability for Aldridge, as he shot 105 of them in the 2014-15 season. He hit 37, which resulted in a 35.2 percent mark. While only shooting 16 (and missing all of them) in 2015-16, he still hit 23 of his 56 attempts in 2016-17. So the ability is there, it’s just about consistency and if Popovich lets him move forward for the full season.

If Aldridge can develop into a reliable 3-point shooter, the Spurs offense would receive its latest layer, one that makes it even more dynamic.

Next: Average a double-double

SAN ANTONIO,TX – APRIL 17:LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs is congratulated by teammates in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at AT&T Center on April 17, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX – APRIL 17:LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs is congratulated by teammates in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at AT&T Center on April 17, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

2. Average a double-double

Since LaMarcus Aldridge’s arrival to San Antonio, he flirted with double-double games in points and rebounds. It never resulted in a double-double season average, however, with lines of 18 points and 8.5 rebounds in 2015-16 and 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 2016-17.

Scoring obviously wasn’t presenting Aldridge from a double-double average. His rebounding totals fell in both San Antonio seasons, despite an increase to double-digit numbers in his final Portland years (11.1 in 2013-14, 10.2 in 2014-15).

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Could 2017-18 be the year he increases the rebounding totals and averages a double-double again? Potentially.

Aldridge’s rebounding numbers started to dip with the 2014-15, the year he started to shoot more 3-pointers. He only grabbed 41 less, but by 2015-16, his rebounding total dropped by nearly 100. The same went for 2016-17, all while playing between 70-75 games.

Aldridge only played in 30.6 minutes per game in 2015-16, a career-low, so the drop in rebounds can potentially be attributed to that. On the other hand, he played almost two more minutes per game in Year 2 and saw the rebound total decline.

A 12.7 Total Rebound Percentage was the lowest of Aldridge’s career since the 2007-08 season. That identifies the percentage of rebounds a player grabs while he’s on the floor. To compare, his 2015-16 percentage was 15.9, the second-highest of his career. So was last season just an anomaly?

If Aldridge returns to his former activity on the boards, will he get to a double-double average for the season? Or, is it the continuation of a decline?

Next: Make the All-Star Game

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 15: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the game against the Eastern Conference All-Star in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game on February 15, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 15: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the game against the Eastern Conference All-Star in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game on February 15, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. Make the All-Star Game

LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t make the 2017 All-Star Game. The last time this happened was in 2010-11, when he averaged over 21 points and eight rebounds per game as a 25-year-old.

For the 32-year-old to break into the 2018 All-Star Game, it will be difficult, especially with voting consolidating centers, power forwards and small forwards, as they’re just forwards now. That means competing with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Paul Goerge, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Rudy Gobert. Not exactly a weak group to get through in the Western Conference.

If Aldridge has any hope of making the All-Star Game, he’ll need the double-double statistics and the improved 3-point shooting. It would make him look the closest to an all-around player he’s been in his 11 years, while also opening eyes of his potential return to superstardom.

Luck might be needed, too, whether it’s some of those noted players missing the All-Star Game due to injury, rest or an unforeseen circumstance. Maybe one or two of them have a down season, statistically, which takes them out of the mix. That’s what happened to Aldridge in February, with his declining stats doing him no favors, along with popularity in the voting.

Can Aldridge break into the 2018 All-Star Game in what could be a career revival?

Must Read: 25 greatest players in Spurs history

What goals would you give Aldridge for the 2017-18 season?

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