Spurs: Where did three-point marksman LaMarcus Aldridge disappear to?

LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs reacts in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs reacts in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

As the San Antonio Spurs continue to struggle, one aspect of their formally potent offense is noticeably missing.

The San Antonio Spurs have been forced to experiment with different plans of attack as they’ve struggled to find ways to win. One particularly interesting wrinkle that emerged earlier this year was the evolution of LaMarcus Aldridge into a premier three-point threat.

Despite other bigs around the league stretching their games out past the arc, Aldridge had never really bought into the revolution. Coming into this year he had made just 60 three-pointers in his time in a Spurs uniform. There’s been a dramatic shift this year as Aldridge is now up to 55 made three’s on the season. He’s knocking down 41 percent of his attempts and has become one of the Spurs’ most reliable options from deep.

Aldridge’s newfound willingness to expand his game had ripple effects across the entire offense and didn’t go unappreciated by his teammates. Perhaps no player’s impact on offense was impacted quite as much as DeMar DeRozan‘s.

With LaMarcus stretching defenses out, DeRozan was able to do what he does best and attack the basket. The newfound driving lanes gave DeRozan plenty of room to weave through defenders and saw him win Western Conference Player of the Week while leading the Spurs in some of their best games of the season.

With the Spurs fighting for their playoff lives, they need Aldridge more than ever. But over his last nine games, Aldridge has gone cold from behind the arc. He’s shooting less of them and making fewer, his percentage has dropped down to just 33 percent over the period. You can’t lay all of the blame at Aldridge’s feet but it’s no coincidence that the Spurs have gone 3-6 during this stretch.

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They’re now in the midst of the of their grueling Rodeo Road Trip, on a four-game losing skid, and four games out of the eighth seed. If they want to preserve their ever-fading chances of making the playoffs they need Aldridge to go back to playing how he did in late December to early January.

It could come down to simply generating more open looks for Aldridge. We all know that Popovich isn’t exactly fond of how many three’s that teams are putting up now but considering the Spurs playoff odds it’s time to put that aside. Pick and pop actions should be a major point of emphasis going forward. Aldridge has looked comfortable working in those situations before, especially with DeRozan.

Aldridge should aim for around six three-point attempts per night. That might seem like a lot but that’s really where he should be given how accurate he’s been from deep. He’s 22nd in the league in three-point accuracy but an astounding 162nd in attempts per game. That’s a huge gap and needs to be addressed. We’ve seen all of the good ripple effects that have come from Aldridge letting it go, it’s hard to imagine that the Spurs end up worse off if he really starts firing away.

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Give credit to Aldridge for expanding his game so late in his career. It’s surely been one of the most important moves of the Spurs season. But San Antonio needs him to snap out of this cold spell if they want to keep their playoff streak alive.