Spurs

Aldridge’s Acumen Not Immune to Father Time

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Death, taxes and Aldridge from 18 feet.

It is a rarity in the association for an NBA star to sustain high-level, All-Star play beyond his prime. Save for modern basketball prodigies such as the Jameses, Duncans, Nowitzkis and Bryants, the grind of the hardwood is more than enough to chew a player out of his expected level of play even before his thirties.

One player whose game has aged gracefully is LaMarcus Aldridge. Only a season and a half away from an All-Star berth in the STACKED Western Conference, his signature mid-range mastery and flair in the post have been persistent catalysts for his stellar play even in his early thirties.

Perhaps as a result of playing for small markets in Portland and San Antonio, LMA has always been someone overlooked in the upper echelon of big men, though his skills and consistency have nevertheless kept him in the high tier of talents. After all, he is a seven-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA player and has rattled off 13 consecutive seasons scoring more than 17 points per game.

Of all frontcourt players, only LeBron James and Kevin Durant have outscored the sweet-shooting big man in the past decade. He may not have better peaks than his other superstar peers, but he is perhaps the best with longevity (save for the King).

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Father Time is catching up to LMA

However, even longevity is not time-proof. As is with many before him, Father Time throws off even the best players out of being main fulcrums. This season has made that as clear as glass for Aldridge, whose play with the rock so far has been a source of nitpicking among Spurs fans.

At 35, LMA has understandably fallen off a cliff, although this season’s drastic drop is truly concerning. While missing out on an All-Star spot last year for only the second time in the past nine seasons, he still averaged an impressive 18.9 points per game on 49/39/83 shooting clips. This season, it’s down to 14.1 on 47/36/76 efficiency. Rebounding (or lack thereof) has also been a glaring scarcity in his game. A career 8.3/game rebounder, this number has taken a nosedive to a measly 4.3 mean on the boards.

While never a game-altering presence on defense, Aldridge has always thrived on the schemes of Gregg Popovich in drop-down coverages and forcing attackers to the baseline. Never as agile as modern big men, his speed on the less-glamorous end has never truly been frowned upon.

This season, however, has changed this, posting one of the worst defensive numbers in the league. San Antonio allows a staggering 116.2 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court, which would rank as second-worst in the association. He does not contest a lot of shots either, ranking fourth in the team while also being a subject of scrutiny among pundits for his abysmal effort on closeouts.

In years past, the Spurs have boasted great defensive players who can mask his deficiencies. However, this iteration of the Silver and Black do not have the personnel to still be conducive to his weaknesses. The youth movement is on full throttle in the Alamo City, and with things slowing down for the great big man, things are looking bleak in his time with the team.

Aldridge’s value going forward

Aldridge hasn’t graced the hardwood since February 1st due to right hip flexor soreness. And while it doesn’t seem to be a long-term problem, he has already missed a chunk of time and isn’t due back just yet.

That being said, there are still reasons to believe he can contribute on a high level. Consistent shooting big men with the playoff experience and scoring acumen of Aldridge are hard to come by. Playoff teams who lack floor spacers at the 5-spot, a necessity in today’s NBA, may find LMA to be a sterling addition to their rosters. The Clippers, Celtics and Heat should all be interested in him as a rental for a deep playoff run.

Undoubtedly, LaMarcus Aldridge is starting to feel the wrath of Father Time. His time as a featured player on the Spurs goes counterintuitive with the development of the young core. However, with his pedigree and acumen as marks of his durable excellence, LMA still has value, though San Antonio may not be the best place to serve his skills and end his storied career.

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