San Antonio Spurs 2018-19 Performance Review: LaMarcus Aldridge
By Ethan Farina
LaMarcus Aldridge added another stellar season to his résumé in his fourth year with the San Antonio Spurs. Aldridge was the most consistent player on the Spurs this season and served as the go-to scoring option night after night.
In his fourth year with the San Antonio Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge proved again why he’s recognized as one of the best big men of his era. While San Antonio struggled to initially bring together so many new players, Aldridge was the most consistent player in a time where the team desperately needed stability.
After a turbulent summer, San Antonio focused the preseason on integrating new players like DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and Quincy Pondexter. To add another complication, San Antonio lost presumed starting point guard Dejounte Murray to a torn ACL. Finally, combo guard Derrick White came down with a left plantar fascia tear that caused him to miss some time.
Many new faces and unforeseen injuries left the Spurs standing on uncertain ground to start the season. During this time of uncertainty, Aldridge’s value was clear.
Aldridge has been a force since he came into the league and continued with that run. His per game averages this year of 21.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists were right in line with his career marks of 19.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2 assists. This consistency was paramount to the Spurs’ early success as they tried to expand the roles of players and integrate others.
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There’s a reason that Aldridge has been one of the most dominant players of the past decade: he knows who he is as a player. Over the past few seasons, big men have been pushed out to the perimeter and encouraged to become volume three-point shooters. Brook Lopez, who had not shot a three-pointer for over half his career, is now putting up over six per game.
Aldridge was the rare big man who eschewed the three-point revolution. He continued to do what he has always done. Do work in the pick-and-roll, take quality mid-range shots, back down smaller opponents and then hit them with a turn around jumper. Shots that are viewed as less valuable from an analytical standpoint are where he thrives because he’s so dang good at them.
LaMarcus dove deep into his bag of tricks for his best game of the season. It also happened to be the very best game of his career.
On January 10th the Oklahoma City Thunder came to San Antonio and treated NBA fans to one of the most exciting games of the season. The Spurs would take down the Thunder 154-147 in a double overtime thriller.
Aldridge was the star of the show.
He would finish the night with a career-high 56 points shooting 20-of-33 from the field and a perfect 16-for-16 from the free throw line. He didn’t attempt a single three-point shot.
LaMarcus Aldridge dropped a career-high 56 PTS in 2OT win over the Thunder ? pic.twitter.com/DP21CwGR3S
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 11, 2019
That night Aldridge showed, as he has done throughout his career, that he can dominate a game by dictating the pace of play and taking the shots he wants. Possession after possession San Antonio brought the ball up the floor, tossed it into the post, and let the big man get his. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective and it got them the win.
During San Antonio’s rough patches of the season, there were calls from writers around the league declaring that the Spurs’ dynasty was over. They said that there was no way Pop could conjure up another playoff run with a roster of older, mid-range-dependent players like DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge. But there were the Spurs, sneaking into the playoffs for another year and tying an NBA record for playoff appearances along the way.
LaMarcus was recognized for his stellar season with his seventh All-Star Game appearance. He was also one of the players who received a considerable amount of votes for 3rd Team All-NBA.
Looking forward to next season, Spurs fans should feel encouraged about Aldridge’s progression. While his decline with age is inevitable, the Spurs and their fans should consider themselves extremely fortunate that his game is predicated on brute strength and a silky smooth jumper. His game should age smoothly and San Antonio can count on his consistent offense for the remainder of his tenure with the team.
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Although the Spurs ultimately fell short of winning a playoff series this year, Aldridge’s season should be considered a success in every sense of the word. He was consistent night after night, made another All-Star team, and took San Antonio to another postseason appearance. The Spurs should be thrilled to have a player of his caliber back on the squad next year.