How LaMarcus Aldridge's Game Has Changed in San Antonio
This past offseason, LaMarcus Aldridge was the “big name” free agent of the summer.
Over nine seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Aldridge was a four-time All Star and averaged 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
After visits with the Los Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Portland Trail Blazers -- and even a sit down with Miami Heat president Pat Riley -- Aldridge decided to sign with San Antonio. Needless to say, his signing immediately increased the Spurs’ title hopes.
With a little more than one quarter of the NBA season down, Aldridge hasn’t exactly put up the kind of boxscore numbers we’re accustomed to seeing out of him, but he has still been a valuable cog in the Spurs’ lineup.
This can be attributed to how the Spurs are using Aldridge and how his role has changed from his Portland days.
Aldridge as a Spur
Over 23 games this season, LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 15.7 points, which is lower than his career average (19.3), and 8.8 rebounds per game. This is to be expected though, because Aldridge is playing only 29.4 minutes per game, the lowest since his rookie year.
In terms of per-36 minute numbers, Aldridge is averaging 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds, while shooting 46.4% from the field. His scoring is still down, after averaging 23.1 and 23.8 per-36 the last two years in Portland, but his rebound average is the second highest of his career, and his field goal percentage is right on par with his last two years (45.8% and 46.6%).
This season, Aldridge’s Usage Rate of 26.3% is his lowest since 2010, and his True Shooting percentage of 50.9% is the second lowest of his career. Both are reasons why his point totals are down.
His rebounding numbers are up due to a big spike in his Offensive Rebounding Percentage, which stands at 10.5% this year, his highest since his rookie year. Overall, Aldridge is grabbing 16.6% of total rebounds, which is a career high.
Looking at Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Aldridge’s 18.9 is his lowest since 2009. However, his Win Shares per 48 minutes of .169 ties his career best, set in 2012. Also, Aldridge’s Defensive Rating of 94 is a by far a career best, as his second best Defensive Rating came last year at 102.
Although Aldridge’s Offensive Rating is a career low, at 104, his Net Rating of plus-10 is the best of his career.
A New Approach
This year, Aldridge is playing the center position for 31% of his minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com, which is the most since 2011-12 (44%). That, in part, can help explain the increase in Rebounding Percentage: Aldridge played an incredible 91% of his minutes at the power forward position last season.
In terms of shot selection, Aldridge is now taking 28.1% of his attempts 0 to 3 feet away from the basket, which is his highest since 2012 and the third highest of his career. A shot that close is obviously a high-percentage attempt, and Aldridge is converting those 68.5% of the time, right on par with his average of 69.5% in Portland.
After shooting 20.5% of his attempts from 3 to 10 feet over nine seasons in Portland, Aldridge is at just 15.5% this season. The Spurs have basically replaced many of those difficult, “in between,” shots with more attempts closer to the rim.
Finally, the Spurs are well known for their ball movement and unselfishness as a team. This is truly evident in Aldridge’s case, as he has had 61.2% of his two-point field goals assisted, roughly five percentage points higher than from his Portland career of 56.4%.
Aldridge’s point totals may be down, but his overall value to the Spurs is as high as ever.
Our metrics agree as well, as his nERD of 6.4 is the 27th best in the league, meaning Aldridge would add roughly six wins to a league average team over a full season.
The Spurs have altered Aldridge’s role slightly, but he is clearly a big reason for San Antonio’s 20-5 record to start the year.