The San Antonio Spurs have been playing some of their best ball over the past month thanks to the evolved game of LaMarcus Aldridge.
One month ago, in a game that received almost no national media attention, something amazing happened. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but in what was an eventual 30 point blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies we saw LaMarcus Aldridge finally buy into extending his game out past the arc. The resulting impact on the San Antonio Spurs offense was instantly apparent.
Throughout his career, Aldridge has made his living on the block. He’s one of the most dominant big men of his generation and it didn’t seem like he would stretch out past the three-point line during his time in San Antonio. But lo and behold, Aldridge has finally embraced the long ball, opened up the Spurs offense, helped push the team back into the playoff picture, and has quietly made a compelling case for why he should make his 8th All-Star game.
Prior to this season, Aldridge had attempted, at most, 105 three’s in a season. He’s put up 71 in the past month and has been knocking them down at a 49 percent clip. He’s already flown past his previous career-high for three-pointers made in a season (37) with 49, 35 of which came in just the past month.
Seemingly overnight Aldridge has become the Spurs premier three-point threat. He’s now up to 13th in the league in terms of three-point percentage, just a hair ahead of former Spur, Davis Bertans.
He’s still got it on the block too. The Spurs don’t receive much national coverage, so it’s helpful for Aldridge’s All-Star case that he shows up in the biggest games. Thankfully he put on a clinic last night, cooking the New Orleans Pelicans for 32 points and spoiling Zion Williamson‘s NBA debut in the process.
Last night, @aldridge_12 recorded his 16th game with 30+PTS and 10+REB as a Spur!
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 23, 2020
In an ironic twist of fate, the player who has benefitted most from Aldridge’s evolution is the one who will compete for him for one of the final All-Star spots. By moving out to the perimeter, Aldridge has opened up wider lanes for DeRozan to attack the basket. The result has been an efficient high scoring stretch that’s Michael Jordan level potent. The two are finally playing in synch and taking down opponents. They’ve outscored the competition by nine points per 100 possessions over the past month.
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DeRozan has scored 20+in 15 of his last 16 games and can also make a strong case for inclusion on an All-Star team. He’s having one of the most efficient seasons of his career and his hitting a career-best 53 percent of his field goals. He’s a shoo-in for a near 20-5-5 line on a nightly basis.
Both will compete against guys like Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the final roster spots. All of the aforementioned players are great in their own regard but everyone has a few knocks against him that may help Aldridge get on the roster.
Towns is a better player than Aldridge, there’s no debating that at this point. But he’s also missed 17 games due to injury this year. Personally, I don’t believe that a player who’s missed 38 percent of his team’s games should make an All-Star team. Especially when that team sits 10.5 games out of the playoffs.
Booker is in a similar position. His numbers this season are similar to what he did last year and so is his team’s record. Frankly, the Suns’ putrid record is what likely held Booker out of the last All-Star game and they’ve found themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference once again. To be fair, they are doing better than the Wolves and Towns, but still not good enough to get Booker into the game.
The problem that CP3 and SGA face is remarkably similar to DeRozan and Aldridge. All four are playing at an All-Star level but it’s highly unlikely that two players from the same fringe playoff team make the All-Star game. My guess is that it will come down to one player from each of the Spurs and Thunder for the final two roster spots.
At least one of the two San Antonio Spurs stars deserves inclusion in this year’s All-Star game. Last year it was LaMarcus Aldridge who made the cut. It looks like it will be DeRozan’s turn this year but through his stellar play over the last month, Aldridge has built a compelling case for himself.