With seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge extending his range beyond the arc, the San Antonio Spurs are transforming into a legitimate playoff candidate.
As all great things do, basketball is evolving and the general approach to the game is drastically changed from what we’ve always been told. Up until the last two decades, the smartest shots were always closer to the basket because of the higher probability that they’d connect. This is how power forward LaMarcus Aldridge made a name for himself—playing close to the rim with an exceptional post-game and on jump shots from within the three-point line.
Times have changed and the mid-range is a lost art, although the San Antonio Spurs refuse to let such shots go. Their two best players, Aldridge and four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan are two of the most proficient mid-range scorers in recent memory and have built resumes off of those shots. However, to coexist in 2020 and keep up with the rest of the league, Aldridge has found that it’s time to give in to the trend and start draining triples.
The results have been astounding for 34-year-old Aldridge, who has shot 50 triples in his last 10 games with 28 makes for a 56% success rate. The team is 6-4 in that span and the improved floor spacing is helping the Spurs develop a much more complete offensive game by opening up lanes to the basket for its handful of dynamic wing slashers.
Aldridge himself is averaging 19.9 points, 8.5 boards and 1.7 blocks per game in the span to help increase his all-around stat line without sacrificing his inside game. Even though he’s taking more triples, Aldridge still gets plenty of looks on the low block because at his core, he’s a post scorer and no change in trends is going to stop that.
Throughout his career, Aldridge has been a premier talent when it comes to jump shooting, though he’s always been far more comfortable taking shots from 13-20 feet away from the basket. Still, the results are speaking for themselves with the Spurs playing their best basketball of the season since the All-Star began to shoot from deep.
Much of the discourse surrounding Aldridge’s shooting has suggested that he’ll extend his career with this trend. I don’t think that the shooting has anything to do with the length of his career considering he was an All-Star last season without the threes and continues to dominate from the mid-range and paint while providing solid protection in the paint. Regardless of his shooting, Aldridge should have no problem playing for as long as his body and mind will allow him to.
"It makes the game a lot easier for me." – that's DeRozan talking about how his great roll coincides with Aldridge's emergence as a perimeter threat.
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) January 13, 2020
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However, the floor spacing and efficiency he provides from beyond the arc should afford him the opportunity to win many more games than he would’ve if he didn’t provide floor spacing to his teams, whether it be the Spurs or another team in the future.
For this season in particular, Aldridge is sacrificing for the greater good of his team by stepping outside the three-point line for his shots. There’s more space for DeRozan to operate within the flow of the offense and improved driving lanes for the likes of Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker to attack the rim. Driving and kicking the ball is how the Spurs won a championship in 2014 and having a deadly three-point shooter out there like Aldridge does dividends for this team offensively.
Aldridge also seems to be getting more comfortable with the shot as he has begun dribbling from outside the three-point line to step back or forward into his shooting form. No, he won’t be taking any of his patented post fadeaways from that area, but the baselines are still open for him to go to work and bully his matchup when he wants to.
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Defensively, the Spurs still have a long way to go before regaining their status as title contenders, but Aldridge’s shooting is taking the offense to another level and in time, San Antonio could be considered a dark horse to make a splash in the playoffs now that they’re clicking on offense.