Despite putting up career numbers in points per game, LaMarcus Aldridge is shooting a career low 46% from the field. He is taking 17% more shots than he did a year ago (which was his previous high). Despite this, I would not advocate him taking fewer shots, but rather easier shots.
The definition of “ease” can be argued. I’ve heard that he needs to score more inside the paint, which makes it sounds like it is easier to score, but I would argue that a wide open jumper from the elbow is a much easier shot for Aldridge than bullying his way inside. Ease isn’t just the absence of difficulty, but the absence of effort. I would compare an effortless shot with one close to the basketball and ask; in reality, which one is really easier?
Percentages will tell you that close-in shots on the whole are made with a higher percentage than anywhere else. But you only have to look at Aldridge’s teammate Damian Lillard for proof that that isn’t always the case. Until recently, Damian Lillard was shooting at a higher percentage from beyond the three point line than he was finishing at the rim. True, Lillard was shooting an impeccable 43% from the three-point line at the time, but less than 43% at the rim is very, very poor.
Easy shots come from passes. It is very hard to create your own “easy” shot using my definition of “absence of effort.” In Aldridge’s case this comes from the “pick and pop” but lately this shot hasn’t been as open, or the execution hasn’t been as sharp.
Less ISO, More Screens
Aldridge is good in the post, he has the capability to make shots off of his turnaround jumper and jump hooks going across the lane, but as you can see, these shots are not very efficient for him. 35% of these shots are assisted, meaning he is going one on one in the post, sometimes facing double teams and he is shooting a combined 38%. These are not easy shots. His best shots are right at the rim off of pick and rolls, rim running on fast breaks, alley-oops, his up and under move when he has deep post position, and the 16 to three-point line jump shots from pick and pops.
When Aldridge is involved in screen and rolls, or pick and pops, he is much more effective as are most players. Those type of plays amount for 65% of his shot attempts and 67% of his makes. Early in the season he lived in that +16 feet mid-range area, and received clean looks. The Blazers need to do a better job of freeing Aldridge on those plays this later part of the season. 10-28 shooting nights, when half of those shots have been of the “difficult” variety isn’t doing the Blazers any favors. The second and fourth quarters have been Aldridge’s worst shooting quarters at 44% and 43%, the difficulty of shots may be wearing him down. I’ve never been one to call Aldridge soft, but backing in from 10-15 feet is obviously not “easy” and requires maximum physical effort; not exactly conducive to more production.
Look for the Blazers offense to focus on getting Aldridge back in his mid-range groove earlier in the game and not relying on his post moves later in the second quarter of each half. The recent fourth quarter collapses need a more efficient LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor.