The San Antonio Spurs smartly signed Kawhi Leonard to a max contract, kept Danny Green and traded center Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks, giving them the cap space they needed to pursue unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Spurs’ system hinges on ball movement, embracing the corner three-point shot, dribbling as little as possible and very few isolation plays. They need guys who are unselfish and worry more about the team getting a good shot than putting up a mediocre shot themselves.
Aldridge will be a good fit.
He made 37.6 passes per game in Portland last season, which would rank fourth on the Spurs roster behind Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Green.
His 6-foot-11 frame is expanded by his 7-foot-4 inch wing span, giving Aldridge extra reach on his jumper. During the 2014-15 season, he averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and showed he could hit the three-point shot (35.2 percent). That’s in addition to a reliable midrange shot. Plus, he can catch the ball on the perimeter (46.2 effective field goal percentage) and put the ball on the floor (above-average 0.8 points per play), although that accounted for only 14.9 percent of his total possessions. He ran even fewer isolation plays (6.9 percent of all possessions), which is only slightly higher than the Spurs did as a team (4.7 percent).
Here’s a play the Spurs run that’s designed specifically to get their big man great post position, called Box Post Iso. It starts with the initiating the ball movement, and ends with him working the block down low while four other shooters spread the defense on the perimeter.
This would really play to Aldridge’s strengths. According to Synergy, he is the fourth best post-up player in the NBA (minimum 200 possessions) in points per play (0.94) as 36.5 percent of his offensive possessions have ended in a field goal attempt, free throw attempt or turnover have come from the post.
Because Aldridge’s jumper is so efficient for a big man, he can successfully post up anywhere.
Here he is getting double-teamed in the post (green arrow), but he would make this shot and get the foul.
Here is Aldridge again, this time stepping back for a jumper.
Even when you think you have him pinned down, he goes up and under for the basket.
Here’s another example, a staple of the Spurs’ pattern motion offense called Strong Rip Single. It involves moving the ball around the arc so the big can make a drive to the basket.
On these plays Aldridge scored at least one point over 53 percent of the time. And while he only grabbed 7.7 percent of available offensive rebounds, he made the most of them, scoring 1.4 points per possession, ranking him No. 1 among all players with at least 100 put backs.
Aldridge isn’t heralded defensively, but the Trail Blazers weren’t that much better with him on the bench, allowing a net difference of 2.7 points per 100 possessions. He did, however, limit opposing players to 45.1 percent shooting at the rim and reduced their shooting percentage by 2.1 percent overall when he was the primary defender. Overall he held opponents to a 40.7 effective field goal percentage and 0.79 points per play.
The Spurs are currently 10-to-1 odds to win the 2016 NBA championship, but with someone as versatile as Aldridge, you have to put them up there with fellow favorites Cleveland and Golden State.