No. 1: “Dig” LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, and make him a passer
LaMarcus Aldridge ranks sixth on this year’s Spurs team in scoring (13.6), and is on pace for his lowest usage since 2009-10 with the Portland Trail Blazers. But make no mistake: his reputation still holds weight.
Despite being a 35-year-old, Aldridge still likely owns credentials atop a scouting report as a feared post-up producer. That much is evidenced on tape this season.
Teams haven’t been so willing to allow him to turn over that right shoulder for his trusty fadeaway, opting to dig on those post plays, or sending weak side help to that shoulder, even if the Spurs try to clear that side for him.
That begins to explain why Aldridge is having the highest assist rate of his career. And while it is true that his teammates are shooting 15-of-30 from deep on passes from him, the likes of Dejounte Murray and DeMar DeRozan aren’t fear-worthy from deep.
The trouble comes in wondering if Portland will be disciplined enough, given their tendency to full-on leave assignments out on an island. In a proper dig — when a help defender rushes at a post player and swipes at the ball without sending the full double team — sometimes the mere presence is enough to get into an offensive player’s mind.
The Aldridge supporter in me hopes it doesn’t happen this way; it would be great to see him put forth a strong performance (in a Blazers win), gain some confidence in a potential “audition” game, and keep that momentum. He should be able to succeed in pick-and-pop situations against Enes Kanter, regardless of what happens in the post.
But if the Blazers want to win this game, perhaps that’s best done by bringing out the best in LaMarcus Aldridge the passer, and not LaMarcus Aldridge the scorer.