Two All-Star bigs of the Western Conference will face off as the seventh seeded San Antonio Spurs tackle the second seeded Denver Nuggets,
It’s official – the San Antonio Spurs will face off against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs and All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is poised for a huge run in the postseason. In arguably his best year donning the silver and black, Aldridge has exemplified the leadership qualities and two-way consistency to guide his Spurs through the treacherous Western Conference.
First up on his to-do list is a matchup against dime-dropping extraordinaire Nikola Jokic. As the sole All-Star on the second seeded Nuggets, Jokic has taken a considerable leap in his development over the course of his fourth season. The 24-year-old posted an elite stat line of 19.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.2 minutes per contest. His unprecedented passing ability makes him a swiss army knife for coach Mike Malone.
It’s historically noted that the pace of the game slows down once the postseason rolls around. This fares well for both parties because each of these elite bigs play a slower and more traditional style of play.
LaMarcus Aldridge with the huge putback slam??
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 11, 2019
For as talented as The Joker has proven himself to be, this will be his first appearance in the NBA Playoffs. Denver was a fringe-playoff team last year and suffered a heartbreaking playoff elimination in the ultimate game of the 2017-18 regular season against Minnesota.
Aldridge, on the other hand, has appeared in 65 playoff games across eight seasons and has averaged 20.8 points on 16 shots while snagging 8.4 boards and 1.4 blocks in those games. Although the outcome of the series was disappointing, Aldridge was exceptional in last year’s first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.
When left to his own devices, Aldridge is a consistent yet predictable producer for his teams. Luckily for Spurs fans, head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff will do their due diligence to scout and prepare for this matchup. With the knowledge instilled by the coaching staff and strategy implemented by Pop, the sky’s the limit for Aldridge this April.
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He’s also performed exceptionally when going head-to-head with Jokic this season. The Spurs and the Nuggets played four times this year with each side winning two games. In those matchups, Aldridge shot 39-for-70 from the field and outscored Jokic twice. The two players tied in scoring once and Jokic edged Aldridge in the final meeting by scoring 20 to LaMarcus’ 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
As a pure scorer, Aldridge is much more talented than Jokic. By using his length at 6-foot-11 with a stocky build, Aldridge can bully Jokic on the interior for easy buckets. As long as Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan can penetrate the paint and dish the ball to their trusty All-Star, the Spurs offense should roll against the Nuggets.
Jokic is a gifted offensive talent, but his defensive upside is limited. His active hands and high basketball IQ make up for his lanky and unassuming build, but Jokic leaves something to be desired as a one-on-one defender. He finished the season with a 106.4 defensive rating, which ranks 13th on his own team. This is not to say that Jokic can’t surprise a lot of people, but LaMarcus is a highly-skilled player with the means to draw fouls easily and force Jokic to step out on defense.
If he plays his cards right and carries his recent intensity into the playoffs, LaMarcus Aldridge could seriously draw national attention with his play in round one.