LaMarcus Aldridge underwent a transformation some time between the last game of the regular season and game one of the Blazers’ opening round series against the Houston Rockets. Much has been made about Aldridge’s career year and rightfully so, as Portland was a woeful 33-49 last season and LMA’s play has helped vault them back into relevancy on a national level.
Still — if you watched this season you probably found yourself thinking, “man I wish Aldridge would be more aggressive and take fewer of those mid-range jumpers” — anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Well, I certainly did (and wrote about it HERE) and someone obviously got in Aldridge’s ear and let him know the same. I like to think he sat down with poker great Doyle Brunson while they read “Super System” and talked about the importance of controlled aggression and now Portland, LMA and the fans get to reap the benefits.
During the regular season Aldridge was far too reliant on the mid-range jumper, taking 899 shots from there (by far tops in the league), while making 379 and shooting 42.2 percent from that area. What’s worse is that 63.2 percent of Aldridge’s total field goal attempts were from mid-range, while only 21.4 percent were in the restricted area. This is problematic when you’re a 6’10” power forward who needs to be getting easy buckets for your team. A side effect of these habits were that LMA only averaged 5.2 free throw attempts per game.
Now I realize there have only been four games played so far for the Blazers in the playoffs, but the difference in Aldridge are quite noticeable. He’s still shooting his patented mid-range jumpers, and that’s great because it really is what makes him so versatile as a power forward. However, he’s shooting fewer of them and being more aggressive in creating his own shots as well.
So far 57.7 percent of Aldridge’s shots have been from mid-range in the playoffs (down 4.5 percent) and he’s increased his restricted area shots as well with 28.9 percent of his attempts coming there (up 7.5 percent). What does all of this show? It shows why Aldridge has been able to shoot an amazing 52.9 percent so far this postseason (up 7.1 percent over his regular season FG%) and it proves that he is being much more aggressive going to the basket. This has also resulted in Aldridge taking an average of 9.0 free throws per game in the playoffs, which would be right up there with league leaders during the regular season.
It’s a simple tweak that seems really easy to fix, but again what makes Aldridge so versatile is his ability to step out and knock down that 15-foot jumper, so it’s easy for the big man to get caught up in taking those shots. This new aggressive Aldridge draws more fouls on his opponents and gives the added pressure of having to play the drive as well as the catch and shoot jumper off the pick and pop.
Another telling stat is the difference in the amount of field goals Aldridge has made that have been assisted versus unassisted. In the regular season 60.0 percent on his made field goals were assisted. During the playoffs that number has dropped to 49.1 percent, which shows that more than half (even by a small margin) of Aldridge’s made field goals have been unassisted — he’s creating his own shots now?! Be afraid opposing power forwards.
All of these are positives that have come from simply being aggressive. A change in mindset that has propelled the Blazers to a 3-1 series lead and the chance to win a playoff series for the first time since 2000.
Monday it was announced that former Portland Trail Blazer head coach Jack Ramsay had passed away. He coached the only championship team Portland has ever had in 1977 and he will be missed by many across the league. What better way to honor Coach Ramsay than to keep advancing in the playoffs with this talented roster.