Monday, May 17, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: LaMarcus Aldridge

Standing 6'11", weighing 240 lbs, and the agility of a guard, there is not much physically the L-Train can't do. His feathery mid-range jump shot has become a staple of the Trail Blazers offense and his quickness from end line to end line has made him a lethal weapon for Portland to exploit on the fast break. Defensively, he is as versatile as they come from the power forward position, strong enough to defend bigger forwards down on the blocks yet agile enough to stick with nearly anybody on the perimeter. He is a big reason why Coach McMillan is a firm believer in switching on defense, because he has the skill level to hold his own out top if a switch occurs on a pick and roll. Like all players, there is always something to improve on during the offseason and here's what LMA should be doing to prepare for his All-Star campaign in 2011.
  1. Face Up Game:
  2. What separates the likes of Nowitzki, Bosh, Gasol, and Amare from the rest of the pack? They each have the ability to not only play with their back to the basket but also take their man outside, turn and face them up, and work out of the triple threat position by either shooting the jump shot, finding the open man, or dribbling hard to the hole. Now, LaMarcus is two-thirds of the way there. He has better than average court vision for a man of his size and doesn't hesitate to knock down the 15 ft. jumper, but to be the complete power forward and earn those multiple All-Star appearances, he'll need to work on his ball-handling this summer. He has the quick first step and agility to pull it off.
  3. Go-To Move:
  4. Given his already long frame at 6'11" and even longer wingspan, spanning 89 inches, coupled with the high release of his shot, he is virtually unblockable in the post. Too often though I feel he relies on the turn-around to bail him out down low. Even though it rarely gets altered, the degree of difficulty is higher than something going towards the hoop. Every great big man in the past and present has had a patented signature move they called upon when buckets were needed. With his soft touch, I'd like to see Aldridge make his baby hook across the middle of the lane, his move he dials up when Portland needs a basket. Get deep position, take a couple of dribbles, turn and fake one way, go back the other way, and finally put the ball in the air. He's a career 48.9% shooter so making it on a regular basis, shouldn't be a problem for LA.
By adding these two moves to his offensive arsenal, Aldridge now becomes impossible to defend and catapults him into elite power forward territory. With a few icons of the post now on the downside of their primes [Duncan, Garnett] as well as a few hitting or eclipsing the age of 30 [Gasol, Nowitzki], the time to take the torch from the others is now.

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