Player Capsule (Plus): LaMarcus Aldridge and the Burden of Proof

 

For the last two seasons, watching LaMarcus Aldridge go to work offensively has been an absolute joy. Aldridge owns one of the most unstoppable pet post moves in the league, and represents one of the few joys that classical post aficionados can get from the modern NBA. He does this exceedingly graceful hard right shoulder fake followed by a soft jump hook. If the defender doesn't overplay it, of course -- if they do, he simply shakes them off and explodes to the rim for a dunk. Sounds a touch unimpressive, perhaps, but it's remarkably effective -- Aldridge converted on an absurd 63% of his hook shots last year. Extremely high. It isn't quite Kareem's skyhook, but it's still almost impossible to stop. He folds that in with an excellent long range game -- albeit absent threes -- that takes his defender out of the post and some of the best free throw shooting from his position (81% from the line, on an above-average FTA/FGA to boot). To a man who likes watching big men work for their own offense, Aldridge is sublime -- he hearkens back to the days of McHale and Olajuwon, with a touch of a modern flair.

As for his defense, it's just about as impressive -- he's never going to be confused for Kevin Garnett, but he's been consistently excellent on that end for Portland He's better at covering the pick and roll than almost anyone in the league (excepting, of course, Garnett and Taj Gibson) and he's a solid defender in the low post. His length makes him a decent spot-up cover when he's engaged, although at times last season he looked a touch lost when he had to float on his man outside the paint. I'd attribute that to the general miasma around last year's Blazers before I really impugn Aldridge, though -- he's been an excellent defensive player for years and one of the top defenders at his position since 2010. His only real flaw, defensively, is his relatively disappointing rebounding -- Aldridge is per-possession one of the worst rebounders among any star big man, and he's never going to average the eye-popping rebounding totals that a Kevin Love or a Blake Griffin type player puts up. That's not necessarily to say he doesn't help the Blazers on that end -- the Blazers have traditionally rebounded better as a unit with Aldridge on the floor, and part of that is for the same reason Epke Udoh improves a team's rebounding despite anemic personal rebounding numbers -- he often blocks out the other team's best rebounder, and he's rather adept at tipping out boards to the Portland guards.

Here's the thing. On offense, you have a superstar player who produces blisteringly efficient offense on a silky-smooth classical style unlike anyone else in the league today. On defense, you have a stick of pick-and-roll dynamite whose slim frame is misleading to his actual defensive value, and whose defense is far and away the best out of all the rising star power forwards in the league. His contract is a laugher, paying him around $13 million annually for one of the few legitimate superstar players in the league. He's humble. He's smart. He's got a compelling personal story and a lovely family. He supports his teammates, loves Andre Miller, and stays generally absurdly healthy despite playing in one of the most health-luckless franchises in the league. Without adding a three to his game, it's almost beyond the realm of possibility for Aldridge to be more efficient or multifaceted offensively. Without a front office that can surround him with talent that at least approaches replacement-level, it's essentially beyond the realm of possibility for Aldridge to single-handedly lead a defunct roster to contention in a brutal conference.

I put the question to you. What more does he need to do to be appreciated? Continue reading

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Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Player Capsules 2012, #343-345: LaMarcus Aldridge, Brad Miller, Shelvin Mack

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with LaMarcus Aldridge, Brad Miller, and Shelvin Mack. Continue reading

Aaron McGuire on EmailAaron McGuire on FacebookAaron McGuire on GithubAaron McGuire on LinkedinAaron McGuire on TumblrAaron McGuire on Twitter
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Player Capsules 2012, #340-342: Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, DeShawn Stevenson

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, and DeShawn Stevenson. Continue reading

Aaron McGuire on EmailAaron McGuire on FacebookAaron McGuire on GithubAaron McGuire on LinkedinAaron McGuire on TumblrAaron McGuire on Twitter
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Small Market Mondays #7: ... wait, what?

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

H.P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu"

Greetings, my fellow Small Marketeers! Small Market Mondays is back! Today I'll be subbing in for Other Alex, who is currently lecturing about the evils of big markets at several prominent small-market universities. I'm told they're receiving him well, which is right and proper considering it's the gospel truth. Now, I'm a little bit different from Other Alex. Not in our approach, for we are both supreme craftsman with an eye to the hustle of scrappers and the grift of hustlers. No, we differ only in our ideologies, and even then, only slightly. But let's talk about it. See, whereas Other Alex wants as life mission to call attention to the wonders of basketball, the miracles of chessboxing, and the pleasurable communal experience of being a small market fan, I yearn for more, brothers and sisters.

I yearn for more than is coded in the San Antonio passes and their gradual, graceful struggle with age. I yearn for more than Marc Gasol's passing or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his amazing length to block centers at the rim. I crave for more than Kevin Durant's sparkling offensive efficiency and always remembering to thank his teammates. I crave more than Boris Diaw and Ricky Rubio playing the passing equivalent of Starcraft against one another with the other 8 players to the scent of puppy breath and cinnamon crepes with Andorra at stake. I need more.

Unfortunately, unlike many sports fans content to fill in the void with large-market spectacle and crowd-sourced, manufactured large-market hype and debacle for the sake of itself, I must look inward, for more, and it is terrifying what I find. There are more things than are dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio, but bless you sincerely for trying! Have you ever seen a shog'goth? Continue reading

Alex Dewey
The co-founder of the blog, Alex is an unemployed jack of all trades, if you redefine "all trades" to mean "computer science, not owning a car, and mathematics." Writes ace book reviews as well as disturbing Lovecraftian horrors. Has a strange sense of humor that's part Posnanski, part coyote, and part Butta. "See you space cowboy."

A Little Bit Harder: Spelunking for Answers on the 2013 Lakers

 

Everyone of them knew that as time went by they'd 
Get a little bit older and a little bit slower but...

"Revolution #9" The Beatles

Ultimately this season has been a cautionary tale for the Lakers so far on what it actually means to get older. We don't know just what the season has in store for the Lakers, and later in this piece we're going to take a long look at their schedule. But given that there have been so many unbelievable twists and turns, I decided it might be nice to get this moment, possibly the Lakers' nadir as a franchise, in amber (you know, like from that episode of House), for posterity. Okay, so it's December 14th, and I've gone through about four stages of feelings with the Lakers this season, as a Spurs fan and as a basketball fan in general.

1. Abject Sports Horror - "They did it again! How did they do it! ..." I have used the ellipsis to omit several unpublishable 8000-word rants. The Los Angeles Lakers had acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Their starting five looked legendary. Not much to say.

2. Schadenfreude - 1-4, they fired Mike Brown, and didn't hire Phil Jackson. Kobe made public comments. Hack-A-Howard worked. Twice. Glorious swoon.

3. Abject Sports Horror 2: Electric Boogaloo - Fun fact: I hadn't at all considered the idea that a bad season might be more horrifying than a good season. For all the fear I had of what the Lakers could do, I hadn't realized how awful a flop would actually be. Not in some big picture "It's fun to hate the Lakers and the league suffers when they aren't a dynasty" sense. I mean in the small-picture. "Wait, I like Steve Nash! I might root against him, but he make the game a lot more fun for everyone, myself included! I also like Kobe, Gasol, and Dwight, as players! It's fascinating to watch each of the four and they are all amazing players." The schadenfreude wears off. You start to laugh at Kobe's vintage season being wasted... but then you think about it for five seconds and realize that Kobe is having a vintage season that's being completely wasted. Dwight Howard can't make a weakside play to save his life. Pau Gasol looks about 48 years old. Steve Nash looks about 38, which is 10 years old than he's ever looked. Four generational talents. Four wasted seasons. Steve Nash might never play another full season. Quite distressing.

4. Overriding Curiosity - We have to lower our expectations for this team, if not in terms of potential than in terms of record. Every loss will not be made up in March. A recalibration is inevitable. Even those of us (Aaron and myself included) who had huge questions about age and the bench need to recalibrate: Aaron did his thesis on aging and I was in close contact with him, he was absolutely concerned about the Lakers entering the season. And even before that, I've long held to Bill James' principle that aging happens much more quickly than any of us are generally willing to admit. But neither of us saw this. Hence our recalibration, in which an impulse akin to leadership emerges, and I start to wonder just what the heck this team would look like at full strength again. The Spurs and Celtics from the last couple of years and the 2011 Mavericks were pretty long in the tooth, after all, and those teams were a lot of fun to watch (okay, not the Celtics, but they've had their moments). Heck, the previous iteration of the Lakers (Bynum-Odom-Gasol-Kobe) was pretty darn old and that team's offense was awesome at times. The Lakers could still be scary.

Okay, thanks for indulging me. Now, let's move from what the Lakers have done to what the Lakers can do, in terms of what that would mean for their remaining schedule.

Continue reading

Alex Dewey
The co-founder of the blog, Alex is an unemployed jack of all trades, if you redefine "all trades" to mean "computer science, not owning a car, and mathematics." Writes ace book reviews as well as disturbing Lovecraftian horrors. Has a strange sense of humor that's part Posnanski, part coyote, and part Butta. "See you space cowboy."

Player Capsules 2012, #337-339: DeJuan Blair, Bill Walker, Goran Dragic

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with DeJuan Blair, Bill Walker, and Goran Dragic. Continue reading

Aaron McGuire on EmailAaron McGuire on FacebookAaron McGuire on GithubAaron McGuire on LinkedinAaron McGuire on TumblrAaron McGuire on Twitter
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Player Capsules 2012, #334-336: Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Parker, Andray Blatche

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Parker, and Andray Blatche. Continue reading

Aaron McGuire on EmailAaron McGuire on FacebookAaron McGuire on GithubAaron McGuire on LinkedinAaron McGuire on TumblrAaron McGuire on Twitter
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Player Capsules 2012, #331-333: Brandon Rush, Dominic McGuire, Chris Wright

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Brandon Rush, Dominic McGuire, and Chris Wright. Continue reading

Aaron McGuire on EmailAaron McGuire on FacebookAaron McGuire on GithubAaron McGuire on LinkedinAaron McGuire on TumblrAaron McGuire on Twitter
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.

Small Market Mondays #6: A Lesson in Values

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

Good day, faithful readers! I apologize for not following our tried-and-true structure last week, but that whole Spurs fiasco really rustled my Jimmies. Seeing as how being critical certainly isn't a value we small marketeers like to propagate, I'm going to make amends today by teaching our true values to the team who needs it most -- the big-market Los Angeles Lakers. I know, I know. I've written about the Lakers much more than other (perhaps more deserving) small market teams. But rubbing in everyone's faces just how well-run our teams are isn't in our code of values. But charity is - and the Lakers certainly need charity after last night's dismal-yet-hilarious performance where they lost their fourth of five games, each of which to a small market juggernaut. The first loss was to the Orlando Magic, the team Dwight Howard left to join the Lakers, and a team from which two lessons can be derived.

The first of these lessons? Originality. All of us are unique and precious snowflakes with lives to be cherished and one-of-a-kind legacies to be made. You should never strive to be like anyone else, nor should you abandon the team which did everything you wanted them to do just like the last transcendent center to play for that team did. Dwight changed it up a bit by virtually not trying at all in the penultimate year of his contract while trying to force a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, but the end result was the same when he ended up with the Lakers. Just like good ol' Shaqnificent. You really need to try to be yourself Dwight. Unless your true self is a guy with an obnoxiously over-the-top "wacky" persona who tries to eat cookies off of his forehead like a 3rd grader in a game of truth or dare gone wrong. Then you might want to try to be someone else. But only then.

Another thing you need to try, Mr. Howard, is practicing free throws. These are a small market staple as success in them comes from thousands of hours of hard work and preparation, not planking on Pepsi machines. Disregard my previous thoughts, maybe you should go back to eating cookies off your own face. But never mind that either. What you should REALLY do is avoid going 9/21 from the free throw line in a game decided by 10 points. I'm not the best 'mathologist' around but if you were to make all of those, you would've scored more points than the final margin, which generally means you would've won that game! Awaiting confirmation on this. [Ed. Note: I am a professional mathologist. You are correct. --Aaron] Ha! See, mom? I really COULD be a professional mathologist, if I wanted to. I could be anything at all, ever. Regardless. Dwight, please inject some originality into your life. And considering that Shaq was also really terrible at free throws, you could definitely kill two birds with one stone here.

The third lesson to be learned from these losses is selflessness. In the second loss of this streak, Kobe Bryant took 31 shots for 39 points. Considering that the Lakers are 1-9 when Kobe scores over 30 points this is an obvious mental lapse on Kobe's part. He simply needs to take no more than 14 2-point shots a game while taking a lesson from Dwight Howard's book by missing any free throws he takes - this way, he can't possibly score more than 30 points and the Lakers might actually have a chance to win! With those extra 17 possessions, Kobe can utilize these unbeknownst concepts like "ball movement" and "teamwork" in order to try to "win close games" for the Lakers.

Finally, the last lesson is incredibly simple: for the love of Small Market Allah (A.K.A. Reggie Miller), don't give Chris Duhon minutes. And don't, under any circumstances, let him start. Or else you might somehow get a point guard racking up all of 3 assists in 32 minutes. Normally we small marketeers are in favor of giving everyone a chance in the interests of fairness, but this is the one exception. Chris Duhon: Not even once. Continue reading

Alex Arnon
Alex Arnon is a basketball obsessive who did his time on the Vegas strip. He is an unapologetic devotee of ignorant trap music, the New York Knickerbockers, and Murakami novels. Fan of naps. Currently a student at UNLV in Econ/Math.

Player Capsules 2012, #328-330: Marquis Daniels, O.J. Mayo, Delonte West

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Marquis Daniels, O.J. Mayo, and Delonte West. Continue reading

Aaron McGuire on EmailAaron McGuire on FacebookAaron McGuire on GithubAaron McGuire on LinkedinAaron McGuire on TumblrAaron McGuire on Twitter
Aaron McGuire
Editor in Chief at Gothic Ginobili
Aaron McGuire works as the lead mathematician and CTO for a small financial consulting firm in Richmond, VA. As a basketball writer, he's primarily known for Gothic Ginobili's 2012 Player Capsule series, where he wrote the equivalent of 1.5 Russian novels about every NBA player around. Nowadays, he writes a weekly column on whatever he damn well feels like.
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