Entering his fourteenth season in the NBA, San Antonio Spurs All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge could look to make minor tweaks to strengthen his all-around game.
At 33 years old, San Antonio Spurs star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge represented the Spurs as an All-Star playing in Charlotte this past season. The seven-time All-Star had a solid year in the Silver & Black, but for San Antonio to push past this 1st-2nd round threshold, the Dallas-native has got to put more in his bag.
In this day and age of the NBA, the “Pace & Space” philosophy seems to apply to every organization besides that of the breakfast taco capital of the world. San Antonio’s offense as the most mid-range heavy team in the league could use a little more dynamic touch from their star PF.
While Coach Pop will hold true to his philosophy, as he should, I’m sure he’s going to also expect a little extra sauce on LaMarcus’s game this coming year. San Antonio’s roster is full of guys who either pace, space or pass. From the great open court fillers and spacers in guys like Bryn Forbes and Davis Bertans, to guys who can push the ball up the floor rather like Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills & Derrick White, the Spurs aren’t needing a totally different LaMarcus come mid-October.
The Spurs offense while shooting the most mid-range shots, and the least three-point shots, still hit at the highest clip in the entire NBA (25 3pa-39.2%). Some could say it is due to volume, but efficiency never lies. Possessions aren’t wasted in this offense, so hitting at such a great clip means they’re always looking to pass up good shots, for great shots.
What I am expecting is for the 5x All-NBA big man to show more attention to things that weren’t looked for as much in his Portland days, which ultimately brought him into the Alamo City.
Next: Becoming a better passer from the post
Create open looks for others by being a better passer in the post
This Spurs roster has a lot of talent, but lacks ability to create their own shot – which is entirely fine. Some of the NBA’s best shooters need to run around two or three screens, rotate and space correctly during a drive & kick, or spot up.
LaMarcus’ post presence alone frightens defenses. If you don’t believe me, watch the Nuggets playoff series again. Nearly every time he touched the ball, they would send weak-side help so LaMarcus would be restricted in terms of doing his patented turn-around J or find the slasher down the lane.
Another reason why they send doubles is because he struggles to find open shooters when help defense arrives. His awareness of incoming help defense is solid, but the play will die right then if there is no cutter. Some of that could be credited to lack of chemistry, but I think there’s a much bigger issue.
The Spurs’ offense doesn’t ever turn into a black hole (6.9% iso, 24th in the NBA). Therefore, even when LaMarcus is backing down, the movement doesn’t stop. When Denver double-teamed, Millsap or Plumlee would surrounds LMA and rotate correctly to cut passing lanes near the rim.
San Antonio would actually rotate pretty well and there’d be an open shooter a good amount of the time. It is a very tough ask for Aldridge, but I think he can pull this off. Screens are continuously being set, so players aren’t just standing in the corner very often – there’s constant player movement and attention to detail offensively.
Guys like Bryn and Marco Belinelli work best anticipating the help coming and finding the open floor to knock down three-point shots. I feel if LaMarcus got a little better at this, it could help players who struggle from deep.
At the end of the season, Pop mentioned an interest in using DeMar on the three-point line much more in 2019. Sometimes DeMar will stand in the corner to space the floor when LaMarcus is backing someone down. While it helps that he unclogs the paint/mid-range, they don’t respect his three-point shot.
When help comes, it would be much easier for a guy who struggles from three the way DeMar does to catch-and-shoot an open look, especially when starting to expand his range
This could help rhythm players and volume players. There are some great post passers who can find guys cross-court whether it be from off-ball work or when help comes, that tremendously helps teams at various points in games. Look at what tons of NBA players say. All they need, is 1 to go in. So, looking into it shows if he could improve his vision in that department, instantly giving the Spurs an easier way to create open looks.
Next: Three-point shot
Ah, yes, the three-point shot. This isn’t the biggest priority to me, but I think this is something he needs to improve. The Spurs run a beautiful half-court offense that creates a lot of good looks from everywhere on the court. That being said, a 23% three-point shot isn’t acceptable.
Aldridge is capable of hitting three-point shots and he has a great pump fake. Imagine if teams respected his three-ball just a tad? Look at Joel Embiid – my guy shoots 30 percent from deep. Best believe that when that pump comes, you got folks jumping to touch Jesus. I mean really, it works!
They respect it, it creates easier looks for him and others, sucks the defense in and allows him kick to an open man. LaMarcus, if having a somewhat decent three-point shot, can definitely help him when looking to get back into that sweet elbow macaroni jump shot range.
I think the best way for him to shoot better from three is trial and error. Obviously, a lot of work in the offseason helps, but LaMarcus has a very high basketball IQ. He knows how to score in several ways.
Shooting 0.5 triples per game isn’t going to help very much. There will be nights where he shoots 0-3, but I think if he shoots it with confidence from the top of the key (33% from there in 2017-18) or the left corner (6/10 in 2017-18) he can really be useful.
Next: Lateral Quickness on Defense
Lateral Quickness on Defense
I’m no fitness guru and I’m not faster than LaMarcus, but I am someone with 20/20 vision. I know many say this era of the NBA is “Positionless”, but I disagree to an extent. Guys like Siakam, Lauri, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, and others who play LMA’s position have the athletic advantage on him.
That’s fine, I’m not saying he needs to drop 25 lbs. and be 6’11/235. I’m saying that he needs to get those lateral lunges and maybe a little karaoke to at least keep up with these guys in the half court.
Considering the Spurs play a two-big set with Jacob Poeltl and LMA, the latter is the more athletic of the two. I know in the NBA they tend to switch on everything, but more times than not, LMA will become a mismatch on defense.
If he just works the body and uses both his weight and strength against these younger bucks, he can have some effectiveness. His lateral movement will also help in defensive rotations, because when the play does break down, he tends to be a couple steps too slow. The Spurs don’t need him to be Tony Allen, but they need him to be able to hold his own more times than not.
He’s a solid defender, but his footwork can be touched up and I believe it will.
Next: Identifying whether Aldridge is a PF or C
Identifying whether Aldridge is a PF or C
Basketball-Reference lists LMA as a Center, but he was moved back to power forward after Game 40 when Jakob Poeltl entered as starting Center. The Spurs, to many, play an outdated style of basketball. I don’t agree with that, but I do agree that a two-big set is a little scary when looking at matchups. Considering the league’s trend toward a stretch & big set, the Spurs aren’t putting Aldridge in the best situation to succeed.
He’s a nightmare of a matchup – you can expect him to drop roughly 21 per game and play solid defense against his opponent. Poeltl is a great low-post finisher, rebounder and rim protector. Aldridge is a phenomenal offensive talent, solid paint defender and solid offensive rebounder.
Jakob is better in terms of paint defense but isn’t nearly as good offensively. This is significant, because maybe LaMarcus should play the C much more in 2019. A potential lineup of DJM-DW (or BF)-DDR-LMA-JP screams no spacing, and not the most athletic group at all.
If the Spurs move LMA to the 5 and add a more athletic piece to match up with the new age fours of this league, LaMarcus could be one of the best centers in this league. Putting him in position to play the five and guard similar body and stylistic types would be a dream for the Spurs.
This may require a little more pick-and-roll defense, but if he works on his lateral movement, he can be fine. He has a 7-foot-5 wingspan (Similar-1 inch less/more than Embiid, Drummond, Myles Turner) and more than enough length to make up some ground if blown by.
He has great offensive footwork and he normally sees the bulk of other team’s centers on defense already. I think an identification of him being the Spurs’ center can benefit the length, athleticism and spacing of this team. I feel a lot of the Spurs players work best playing mid-average minutes. Shorter stretches give better bursts on both ends, especially for a much younger group than we are all accustomed to. I feel it could actually help some players grow.
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A permanent move to the center can enable him to play his style of ball and relieves pressure that isn’t necessary. He’s a solid rim protector and can work on his defensive rebounding a little bit, but he is really solid at what you need your big to do.
If, they keep him at the power forward slot, the Spurs will have a somewhat tough time on offense against more athletic groups. This has been a problem for the Spurs for years, but now the NBA really has moved the needle. You always have to have at least an appetizer of athleticism on the floor.
I think it can be really tough defensively on Aldridge to put that amount of effort on both ends while being 33-years-old and playing 33 minutes per night. It’s a lot to ask and I think it’s unfair to him, but I’m sure he expects to be great on both ends on any given night.
It does come with some benefits, but as I said, what does it matter if you’re giving that same volume up on the other end? It’s not the most ideal formula. Although, I do trust in Pop, I just think maybe this could very well benefit this core.