The game is changing and bringing older players along with it. In his fifth year with the San Antonio Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge is starting to embrace the three-point shot.
The next time you have a few spare moments I recommend watching some old NBA highlights from the early 2000s. It can serve as both a way to take a trip down memory lane and watch some old San Antonio Spurs highlights of Tim Duncan dominate opponents in his prime as well as remind you just how far we have come since then.
As bigs across the NBA have stretched their games further and further out behind the arc, LaMarcus Aldridge had largely stayed in his mid-range comfort zone. That’s changed this year as he continues to show a willingness to shoot it from deep.
He hasn’t changed his game to the degree that bigs like Brook Lopez have, but Aldridge is embracing the three-point shot in a way that we haven’t seen before. Last night against the Detroit Pistons he led the team in three-pointers made and was second on the team in attempts after he went five for six from behind the arc.
That kind of versatile shooting performance is exactly what the Spurs need from Aldridge going forward. He’s making a good percentage of his attempts, he’s connecting on 40 percent of them over the course of the season. If that can be sustained it becomes all about increasing volume.
Aldridge put up five three-pointers against the Memphis Grizzlies last week before he unloaded six against the Pistons. Five three-pointers a night from one of the better shooters on the team should not be an unreasonable expectation. Frankly, it’s surprising to both teammates and fans that he hasn’t been doing this all season.
Dejounte Murray on LA stretching the floor: "He shoots them in practice all the time, so I don’t know why he doesn’t get out there and shoot them in games. It’s good to see him finally start shooting them…He rarely misses them in practice."
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) December 29, 2019
What’s particularly helpful about Aldridge showing a willingness to shoot the three is that he’s also proven his ability to hit them from all areas of the floor. He’s knocking down 39.6 percent of his above the break three’s this season and 44 percent of his shots from the corners. Unlike other players who may need to have attempts built into specific plays or situations, Aldridge can hit from all over the floor.
This opens up all sorts of possibilities for San Antonio’s offense. Dejounte’s streaking down the floor with Aldridge trailing? Three-pointer for LaMarcus. See him hanging out in the corner? Whip the ball over and watch him let it go. These are the kinds of plays that should be seen more often as the season progresses.
It’s a credit to Aldridge that he’s shown a willingness to do something that is outside of his comfort zone in order to help the team. When the biggest star on the team is doing that it trickles down and that team-first attitude spreads to all other areas of the game. It’s something that’s been noticed by others on the team, as Rudy Gay told Tom Osborn with the San Antonio Express-News.
“It means a lot. He’s willing to sacrifice his game and go out there and do something he is not used to doing. That means a lot for our team, and he has shown he can do it.”
Moving guys like Aldridge and Gay out behind the arc will open up more driving lanes for the Spurs guards. Guys like Derrick White and Patty Mills have proven that they can still be successful without open driving lanes but DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray are a bit more dependant on having space to get to the rim.
Aldridge shooting three’s won’t make or break the Spurs season but it can certainly start to push the team in the right direction. There’s still a lot of work to be done to get to where San Antonio wanted to be at the beginning of the year but this recent stretch of games, along with the team’s positive attitude, is certainly a reason for optimism going forward.
LaMarcus will soon get another opportunity to show off his touch from outside against one of the worst defensive teams in the league when the San Antonio Spurs host the Golden State Warriors on New Year’s Eve.