On Monday, San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for games played February 1-7. After earning the recognition, Aldridge followed with a 28-point and 21-point performance in back-to-back wins Tuesday against the Miami Heat, and Wednesday in Orlando against the Magic.
Through 49 games as a Spur, Aldridge isn’t averaging the 23.4 points he was scoring in Portland a season ago, but a large chunk of that is due to limited shots because of the limited minutes Aldridge is playing, since the Spurs own a league best point differential, defeating the average opponent by 13.3 points per game.
After Wednesday’s 21 point performance against the Magic, Aldridge’s season scoring average as a Spur has increased to 17.0 points per game, while his shooting has become even more efficient, as he’s now knocking down 50.4% of his shots on just 13.7 attempts per game.
Since the Spurs’ 120-90 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Aldridge has scored over 20 points in six of his last eight games. The chart below displays Aldridge’s season scoring average in 10-game segments, thus far through the All-Star Break. As you can see, Aldridge’s scoring has increased dramatically by six more points than his previous ten games, and we’ll dig a little deeper as to why that’s happening.
When you look deeper into Aldridge’s last nine games, one specific area that really jumps out on the stat sheet and an area that matches the eye test is how much more frequently Aldridge is drawing contact in the low block and visiting the free throw line. The table below displays Aldridge’s free throw attempts in 10-game segments through 49 games this season.
|Segment||Free Throw Attempts Per Game|
|Games 1-10||4.2 FTA|
|Games 11-20||2.7 FTA|
|Games 21-30||3.5 FTA|
|Games 31-40||3.0 FTA|
|Games 41-49||6.3 FTA|
As the numbers display above, not only is Aldridge visiting the free throw line more often over these past nine games, but he’s making 5.8 per night when he’s getting to the line. When you look at an increase from 16 to 22 points per game, making almost six more free throws per night has a significant impact on that number.
As 49 games have passed, not only is Aldridge becoming more aggressive and finding his positions onto the floor much quicker, but his new teammates are also learning where he’s most effective – near the rim in the restricted area and open on pick-and-pop looks. Near the rim, Aldridge can score in a variety of ways – offensive rebounding, posting up, turning and fading away, with alley-oops on the run, or even finishing dunks on a fast break. Over the last nine games, when Aldridge is looking to post-up, he’s not only getting in better position down on the low block, but he’s also using different moves from his post-up arsenal to either draw contact from the defender, or lose the defender all together, as he recently did to Anthony Davis in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Over the last nine games, Aldridge has attempted 43 shots in the restricted area and he’s made 38 of them (79.1%). The second area where Aldridge is shooting the most from in the last nine games is the mid-range area, where he’s attempted 56 shots and made 31 of them, good for a shooting percentage of 55.4%. One new staple in the Spurs’ offense that is almost becoming routine when they share the floor together is the Tony Parker-Aldridge pick-and-pop, which the duo look to attempt several times in games.
Lately, while Aldridge has become even more comfortable scoring in the Spurs’ system, it hasn’t impacted Kawhi Leonard’s production either, as the two have both scored 20 or more points in four of their last five games together during the same game. Having a 1-2 punch that can score over 20 points in a given game will likely make the Spurs’ third ranked offense (109.3 Points Per 100 Possessions) that much more difficult for defenses to plan for, since San Antonio still has other offensive weapons in Parker, Danny Green, Tim Duncan, and the deep bench comprised of Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, David West and Jonathon Simmons or Kyle Anderson.
This season the Spurs are 17-0 when Aldridge leads the team in scoring. After the All-Star Break, San Antonio will have just 29 games remaining to continue to make Aldridge as comfortable as possible before April arrives, and from then, whatever has been developed with Aldridge and San Antonio, will be put to the test is the season that will matter – the playoffs.