In his fifth year with the San Antonio Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge will be called upon once again to help carry the team through the tough Western Conference. Here are three goals for Aldridge in the 2019-20 season.
Since signing with the San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 2015 LaMarcus Aldridge has done everything the San Antonio Spurs have asked of him. He’s helped the team through the end of the Big Three Era, the loss of Kawhi Leonard, and helped stabilize the team in DeMar DeRozan‘s acclimation year.
This year the expectations will be just as high as they have in the past. The Western Conference is loaded from top to bottom with star talent. The Spurs will need Aldridge to continue to play at an All-NBA level if they want to return to the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive year.
Like a Subaru Outback Aldridge’s game isn’t the flashiest or the most exciting. But it’s dependable, low maintenance, and you can count on it year after year.
Last year, as he has throughout his career, Aldridge played at a high level every night and was one of the best big men in the league. He set a new career-high for points scored in a single game, made his seventh All-Star team, and helped carry the Spurs to the eighth seed in the playoffs.
With excellent complimentary forwards around him, a plethora of exciting young guards, and the best coach to ever do it, Aldridge is primed for another great year. Here are three goals for the big man in 2019-20.
Next: Goal #1
Be the offensive linchpin for the Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge’s role in the San Antonio Spurs offense cannot be overstated. He’s a reliable scorer from all levels, a willing and accurate passer, and his presence in the pick and roll helps stabilize the team when things are getting out of hand.
Last year Aldridge was one of the most dominant big men in the league when rolling to the rim. He scored four points per game while attacking the rim out of pick and roll, good enough for 14th in the league. Blessed with a multitude of skilled pick and roll ball handlers, I would like to see Aldridge operate here more.
Another area where Aldridge can help elevate the Spurs offense is expanding his range out past the three-point line. It’s something he’s talked about doing and has shown a greater willingness to do through two preseason games.
We’ve seen the driving lanes that teams like the Milwaukee Bucks were able to open by dragging opposing defenders far out to cover Brook Lopez. I’m not suggesting that Aldridge attempt 100+ three’s this season. But having the threat of him putting up one from the corner or top of the key will open up space for slashers like DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray to work.
Finally, Aldridge needs to continue to be the Spurs go-to option in clutch situations. He, along with DeRozan, are the most capable of demanding the ball with the game on the line and creating their shot.
We’ve seen Aldridge time and time again demand the ball on the right block, back down once or twice, and turn and fade away. It’s a move that isn’t quite in the unblockable shot echelon of Dirk Nowitzki‘s fadeaway or Tim Duncan‘s bank shot but it’s dang close. When it matters most there is no player on the Spurs I trust more than Aldridge.
Aldridge has been the engine of the Spurs offense since he joined the team. Don’t expect that to change this year.
Next: Goal #2
Help lead the Spurs best defensive unit
The San Antonio Spurs have long been a franchise that has taken pride in their defense. Having one of the best defensive players in the history of the game in Tim Duncan will do that. But last year was a down year for the Spurs.
After posting a negative relative defensive rating every year since 1997-98 season, the Spurs posted a positive relative defensive rating of .08 last season. This means that they had a below-average defense for the first time in over twenty years. But there are plenty of reasons for hope. San Antonio should be able to flip the script and get back to their lockdown ways this year.
LaMarcus Aldridge has proven that he can be part of a lineup that shuts down opposing offenses. Last season the lineup of Aldridge, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White ranked 12th in the league in defensive rating among lineups with 300 or more minutes. This year San Antonio can be even stronger defensively.
Substitute Dejounte Murray for Bryn Forbes and, depending on the night, add-in DeMarre Carroll and you have the ingredients of a lineup that can cover every base. There will be situations when Jakob Poeltl will be called upon to start next to Aldridge, as he was in the playoffs last year, but Aldridge should be a constant in the Spurs defensive-minded lineups.
Returning to their old ways of lockdown defense is a necessity for San Antonio. The Western conference is full to the brim of outstanding offensive players. There will be nights that the Spurs will simply be overmatched there. They can find their winning edge, as they have for the past two decades, with their defense.
San Antonio has the personnel to bring it defensively. With Aldridge protecting the rim they can return to being one of the league’s toughest teams on that end of the floor.
Next: Goal #3
Rack up the individual accolades
Throughout his career, LaMarcus Aldridge has regularly made appearances on All-Star and All-NBA teams. Last year was no different. LaMarcus made his seventh All-Star team and received more than a few votes for All-NBA Third Team.
To be fair, LaMarcus was a near snub from the All-Star team. He was one of the final players added to the rosters. In fact, it’s likely that, were it not for his inclusion, DeRozan may have made the team. This year, as in all years, Aldridge will have to keep the Spurs in playoff contention, and likely achieve a higher seed than last year, if he wants to return to the All-Star and All-NBA teams.
As much as these awards are a recognition of the individual player, they are also a recognition of the team’s success. There’s a reason players like Devin Booker haven’t made All-Star teams. It’s not because they’re not All-Star caliber players, it’s that their teams are just bad. They are painted as great players putting up great stats on a bad team.
In order for LaMarcus to make his sixth All-NBA team, he needs to carry the Spurs to at least the sixth seed in the playoffs and be the best player on the team. Some NBA writers are already, foolishly, counting the Spurs out. San Antonio is generally viewed as a fringe playoff team right now. They’re somehow lumped in with teams like the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, and Warriors for the last few remaining playoff spots.
If Aldridge can break that narrative and help the Spurs clinch the sixth seed or better, and an NBA record for consecutive playoff appearances, he should be included on All-NBA Third Team ballots.
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Regardless of if he makes an All-Star or All-NBA team or not, LaMarcus Aldridge is sure to be one of the best big men in the NBA once again. The San Antonio Spurs will need him to be at his very best if they want to improve from last season.