Talking all things LaMarcus Aldridge….
Last season, Aldridge averaged 23 and 10. This season he averaged 18 and almost 9, in five less minutes. He had career highs in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and a career low in turnovers. Does he have to win a ring to validate this year?
Brendan Gillespie: No. The great thing about what Aldridge has done this year is that he has done it basically out of the limelight. The San Antonio bubble of obscurity has helped Aldridge. When he cut off social media and focused on the Spurs way he thrived. He had that horrible Warriors outing and since then he has done everything to validate his max deal. If he wins a ring, and that’s a huge if, he’ll turn the page away from Tim Duncan. He’ll never be Duncan. Ever. But he’s not intimidated by the prospect of sliding in those footprints Duncan is leaving behind.
Mallory Stith-Wheat: I don’t think anyone expected Aldridge to be Portland Aldridge. But he’s been great all year, the perfect compliment to Kawhi. I think there was a little tension with how Damian Lillard was received in Rip City, but Pop’s system allows for the sum not to affect the individual part. It has allowed Kawhi to be Kawhi. And L.A. to be L.A. It’s all about the Spurs system and where you fit in. I don’t think Aldridge has to win a ring this year. He’s only 30. But you can see his value and that with him and Kawhi, they’ll be a dominant front court tandem like Curry and Thomspon are in the backcourt.
C.J. Hampshire: The first year is a learning curve year. That said, I think he wants to do it for Duncan, like Duncan won when David Robinson was going out. The way he is playing, it is very possible. But he has a bunch more opportunities after this year.
Julian Billick: It’s all depends on how he does if he gets to the Finals. If he gets there and has a bad performance then yeah that’s all anyone will remember. But if he gets there and dominates but the Cavs are just better, then it will be looked at as a good year and the Spurs have to get a little younger and more athletic.
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Size up Aldridge for the championship ring right now?
Mallory: No. The one thing about the Spurs that all organizations have to admire is their continuity. The same guys have been playing together for a long time. Now they bring in two new people (Aldridge, West) and look at how they adjusted. I’m still not buying the Spurs beating the Warriors.
C.J.: Nah. That would mean the Spurs are the clear cut favorite in the West. It comes down to who is healthy, who can defend the three and who can move the ball. I’m not sold on the Spurs stopping the Warriors four times.
Julian: The Spurs are an older team now- Aldridge is 30. They have to figure out how to defend the Warriors in a series. Aldridge can hold onto the ball. But I think he will adjust. What no one can predict is how Aldridge reacts under the pressure of the WCF or the NBA Finals. How does he perform in big moments? Is he Spurs like- ice water in his veins, or will the moment be too big.
Brendan Gillespie: I like the Spurs this year but no more than I like the Warriors. Draymond Green can’t guard Aldridge if Aldridge is being super aggressive. But the Spurs have no one for Curry and Thompson. The Warriors have so much depth. They can throw Iguodala on Leonard, move Barnes to the 4 and have five quality scorers out there on the court. Plus I like how the Warriors constantly push the ball against an old team like the Spurs. So the answer is no. No ring for Aldridge.
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For his entire career, Aldridge has played in a city far removed from the media glare. The fans in Portland love their players, rarely criticize them and consider them family. Now that Aldridge is in San Antonio, it is a similar market. If Aldridge wins the title, will he be considered a superstar?
CJ: By whose definition? Mark Cuban’s? A superstar carries their team, is dependent on in big moments, and, as Stephen A. Smith is fond of saying, is “box office.” That’s not the Spurs style. Is Aldridge the best player on this team? I don’t think so. What Aldridge can do, he dominates at, but Leonard can do just about everything on the court. You don’t become a superstar at 30. You are a superstar at 26.
Mallory: Who cares? The Spurs have a lot of pieces. That was the point of going there. The point also was he wanted to win. He doesn’t know what the pressure is like because he has never experienced it before. We’re just into the second round but wait until the WCF or the NBA Finals That’s an unknown. Have to wait and see. Unfortunately, quiet players have a harder time cracking the superstar label. They tend to want fans to pay attention to their game only and leave the rest of their lives alone. A superstar means the whole person is on stage, up for debate and critique. I think he’ll be a top-10 player if he wins a ring or even if he doesn’t. But don’t call him a superstar because he scored 40+ against OKC.
C.J.: No. He’s a very good player who can have epic performances but I think we are ahead of ourselves here. The Spurs had no competition against the D-League Grizz. He has totally balled in the first two games, trying to average 40 in the series. But let’s hold our breath and see how this plays out in OKC.
Julian: Aldridge is doing everything he was supposed to do after being a max player. A lot of people were throwing shade and wondered if he could take the pressure and fit into the system. So far, he’s answered the bell. But there are a lot of games left.
Okay, he’s not a superstar but is he the best power forward in the game? Rank the top 5.
C.J.: Blake Griffin is explosive on both ends and he’s a great passer so he’s my number one. Draymond Green is an all around dominant player, no matter how you want to size it up and he’s a great leader. He’s my number two. Aldridge will numb you to death with his mid-range but he’s not a great passer, nor does he block shots. He’s third. Anthony Davis, when he’s not injured, is gifted athletically and plays like a guard. Kevin Love, reluctantly. That rounds out the group.
Brendan: Draymond Green is pure energy, hustle, leadership and skill. His court vision is tremendous. Blake is second. Then Aldridge. Anthony Davis had an injury year but he’s going to dominate. Kevin Love is my number five. He can post up, drain the three, rebound.
Mallory: This is how I judge it. Can he do what no one else can do? That’s Draymond. He scores, makes threes, leads the team in assists, rebounds. blocks shots, is the heart of the team, coaches on the floor, talks mega trash. Then Blake. His explosiveness along with his passing makes him a tough guy to score on though it’s close for Aldridge to be second. Blake can disappear in playoff games. Aldridge doesn’t have much of a consistent playoff history. It’s too early to say for sure. So he and Blake are tied in my book. Then Anthony Davis and Kevin Love. Love will never be appreciated but he is a unique player.
Julian: I can’t put Aldridge first. I can’t forget that game in Oakland. He looked old and slow. He has to show me something against the Warriors in the playoffs. I like Draymond. His versatility is unbelievable. He is first for me. His leadership puts him in a class by himself. Then Blake. He can hit the mid-range but he can also put it on the floor, spin and dunk on you. He does shrink in the postseason but the talent is breathtaking. Aldridge is next. Kevin Love and Anthony Davis are four and five.
photo via llananba