The L-Train is averaging a modest 20.8 points, grabbing 8.6 boards, and dishing out a career-best 2.6 assists per game. He became just the 8th Trail Blazer to ever be selected to consecutive All-star games, and his Smile Above Replacement rating is off the charts. So what is there to gripe out? Efficiency.
Aldridge has been “using” a steady diet of 21-to-22 possessions per game for himself since the 2010-11 season, but his true shooting percentage is telling us that his points per possession ratio is A) not all that good for a big man, and B) at a career-worst this season. For comparison, here is what the other power forward-type starters have done this year.
Being more efficient than Zach Randolph and Josh Smith is not something to write home about. Perhaps the top comparable on that list is Chris Bosh, who also plays away from the basket a fair amount, but even his 59.5 TS% is miles better than that of the L-train. In fact, Bosh’s career 57.1% is better than Aldridge has ever achieved in even one season.
That Aldridge is not an efficient scorer shouldn’t exactly shock you. Aldridge takes a lot of long two-pointers for a big man. On cue, 82games.com is there to tell us that 74% of his scoring attempts have come from jumpers. 74%!?! Not surprisingly, Aldridge scores about 0.85 points per shot from out there, and a much better 1.25 points per shot from inside. His outside shooting is obviously not helping the team directly, so we can only hope he’s creating space inside for the other guys.
However, it’s hard to evaluate Aldridge’s effect on others, and whether or not he’s creating that space. We have to be careful looking at team statistics when Aldridge is on and off the court. For instance, the team shoots better and gets more assists when he is on the floor—but of course, the team shoots better and gets more assists when each of the starters is on the floor. That’s what happens when your starters play together for long stretches of time, and your bench sucks. It’s hard to apportion credit to any one player.
With the information that we do have, we know that Aldridge has not been an efficient scorer this season—not what we expect from an All-star, anyway. But good news comes in the form of an increased assist-to-turnover ratio, ranking him among the league’s best big men. Not that his A/TO ratio makes up for his poor scoring efficiency, but it’s something positive amidst a down year for the big man.
Aldridge is definitely a good player. It takes a special talent to be able to score 20 points night in and night out. But unless the spacing he provides allows the rest of the Blazers to attain significantly increased efficiency, then he is not quite the All-star he is made out to be.
Followup: In the near future I hope to look at some players that have played significant minutes with and without the L-Train in the hopes of finding that they shot more efficiently when playing alongside him.