Terry Stotts, the former Dallas assistant turned Portland head coach, is already catching criticism for his Dirk Nowitski-esque usage of All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
The first-year coach has imposed a new offensive scheme that features more wide-open, free-flowing play, and so far, the result has had a negative effect on Aldridge who, through Monday, is shooting a career-low .425 from the field. After going 7-17 from the field last Thursday, Aldridge was asked about his recent long-range shooting binge by The Oregonian’s Jason Quick.
“[Stotts] has plays that he calls that get me to the block,” Aldridge said. “Other than that, you float to the elbow. So the offense is designed for me to be at the elbow.”
What’s worse, Aldridge seemed to get defensive when asked by Quick if he was shooting too many jumpers.
“I don’t [think so],” he responded. “Obviously you do, you asked the question.”
The developing trend is not being overplayed, and it is something Blazers fans should be keeping an eye on. Aldridge is a career 41.8 percent between the paint and the three-point line as opposed to a 58.3 percent shooter from inside the paint, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com, and through seven games he is launching more mid-range jumpers than ever. Joe Kaiser of ESPN.com had Aldridge “playing small, not big” as his number one trend to watch so far this season, but let’s let the numbers tell the full story.
The majority of Aldridge’s shot attempts are coming from outside of 16 feet, as he leads the league in mid-range jumpers. In previous years Aldridge had taken these long twos around 35 percent of the time, but this year he is taking them almost 60 percent of the time. (Ben Golliver)
And while Aldridge has always been considered one of the better jump-shooting big men in the league, he has never been on the same level as Stotts’ former power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is a 46.8 percent shooter from mid-range. Moreover, Aldridge has been an elite scorer in the low-post throughout his career. In Aldridge’s best season, 2011-2012, he averaged about 10 shots a game from inside of 10 feet, while this year he is only averaging 5.4 from inside, according to Kaiser.
If there is one positive, it is that Aldridge has been distributing the basketball better than ever. Through Monday, Aldridge is averaging 4.4 assists, which is way up from his career mark of 1.8. Regardless, though, his overall efficiency so far this season (17.44 Player Efficiency Rating) is the worst it has been since his rookie year.
With the Blazers struggling—they are 2-5 through Monday—Stotts needs to begin to realize that he no longer has Dirk Nowitzki at power forward. What he does have is a dominating post player with good range to keep defenses honest. If this realization happens later and not sooner, the Blazers could be facing a long year.
“[Aldridge] is transforming from a post presence with range to a glorified wing shooter right in front of our eyes,” writes Kaiser. “That could be a bad thing for the Blazers.”
So far, for Aldridge and for the Blazers, it certainly hasn’t been a good thing.