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Posts Tagged ‘Lamarcus Aldridge

Talent grading the Pacers and Blazers starting lineups!

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The Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers are two of biggest and fun stories of the year, with a combined 34-5 record to start the season.

Both sport well balanced, cohesive teams and neither relied on ‘tanking’ to build its core. Not counting the lockout season, the Blazers haven’t been under 30 wins since 2005-2006 while the Pacers haven’t seen 1988-1989. A combination of talent evaluation through slick trades, signings or late round drafting have helped them build contenders.

Here is how my talent grading system rates each starting 5

Portland Trailblazers

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent

Damian Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge lead the way in this category. Lillard is both an above average athlete and has great ballhandling skills, allowing him to blow by opponents and to the rim. A good frame for a point guard also helps his finishing. Lillard is a talented slasher physically.

Although Portland likes to use him on the perimeter, Lamarcus Aldridge is also an above average athlete and can use his explosiveness to make plays. His size and mobility helps him physically on the defensive end as well.

The rest of the starting lineup has mixed results in my physical impact talent category. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum both lack either the athleticism or ballhandling to attack the basket explosively, becoming perimeter orientated shooters. Matthews has good size for a SG helping him on the defensive end, while Batum is one of the longest players at his position.

Mirroring Matthews and Batum, Robin Lopez is an average athlete at center but has impressive length, helping him contest or block shots.

Physical impact talent (Athleticism, size, ballhandling) talent grades:

Damian Lillard: 8

Wesley Matthews: 3

Nicolas Batum: 4

Lamarcus Aldridge: 7

Robin Lopez: 6

(Average: 5.8)

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent:

I rate three of the Blazers as among the best at their position in this category: Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Lamarcus Aldridge. LIllard is already one of the best shooters at point guard both spotting up and off the dribble and is an adequate passer for a point guard. Lamarcus Aldridge is one of the best midrange shooters at PF and has developed an outstanding post repertoire, with his length helping in that area. Nicolas Batum is both an elite shooter at SF and has strong point forward skills. He also has the length to play in the post.

Wesley Matthews is largely a spot up shooter from skill perspective, but is one of the best in the league at that skill.

Robin Lopez is the weakest link in the starting 5 for skill. He can finish around the rim a bit and is developing midrange, which is enough for average ability for center.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

Damian Lillard: 9

Wesley Matthews: 8

Nicolas Batum: 9

Lamarcus Aldridge: 9

Robin Lopez: 5

(Average: 8.0)

Feel for the Game talent:

This category is also a strength for the Blazers. I’ve come to largely use fluidity and the ease/control of a player’s game as the measure of feel for the game and instincts. Batum and Aldridge are two of the most fluid and natural players at their position, while Matthews is also known for his mistake-free, natural game on both ends.

I wouldn’t call Lillard elite in feel for the game, but he has control and craftiness and enough fluidity to be above average. I would also rate Robin Lopez’s feel to be above average, which helps him make the right decisions offensively and defensively.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Damian Lillard: 7

Wesley Matthews: 8

Nicolas Batum: 9

Lamarcus Aldridge: 9

Robin Lopez: 7

(Average: 8.0)

Here is the players total grades:

Damian Lillard

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 7

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7

Total talent grade: 23

Wesley Matthews

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 3

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 19

Nicolas Batum

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 4

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 22

Lamarcus Aldridge

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 7

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 25

Robin Lopez

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 6

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7

Total talent grade: 18

I tend to treat 19 as a threshold of sorts for “blue chip” and 25 as a “true star” talent, so using these grades Lamarcus would rate among the league’s elite talent, Lillard and Batum a next tier down and Matthews and Lopez on the edge of blue chip status.

The Blazers have a tremendous skill impact talent due to their shooters and Aldridge at PF, with good to elite feel for the game across the board. While physical impact isn’t their strength due the lack of slashing at SG and SF, the team length defensively is great and they get enough from Lillard and Aldridge attacking the basket offensively.

Indiana Pacers

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent:

My top rated Pacer in this category is Lance Stephenson. Lance has a strong combination of athleticism, ballhandling and strength giving him ideal slashing tools for a shooting guard.

Paul George is an impressive athlete with elite length for his position, albeit ballhandling can push him to the perimeter and prevent an elite grade in this category for me.

Roy Hibbert is a difficult player to grade in this category. On one hand he has sluggish athleticism and speed, however he is one of the longest players in the league, especially valuable at C helping him block shots. I would rate him as above average in physical impact talent.

The two remaining Pacers starters George Hill and David West are limited in the category. Hill is a big PG defensively, but has impressive ballhandling and speed, hurting his ability to attack the basket. West is strong but is neither explosive athletically or long at PF.

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grades:

George Hill: 4

Lance Stephenson: 8

Paul George: 7

David West: 3

Roy Hibbert: 6

(Average: 5.6)

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent

Paul George and David West lead the way in this category for me. George has turned himself into one of the best outside shooters in the league, uses his length to create midrange shots and has both passing skills and post potential. West has long been a master of the midrange jumper at PF and has post skills near and away from the rim.

George Hill is an impressive open 3 point jumpshooter and decent passer, but has struggled to create at a high volume from the perimeter. Roy Hibbert has strength and moves in the post and can shoot a few feet out, but is not a skill first player and can struggle with touch.

Lance Stephenson is the weakest link in this category. His jumpshot has long been a work in progress, a big weakness at shooting guard. He does have passing and post talent.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

George HIll: 7

Lance Stephenson: 4

Paul George: 9

David West: 9

Roy Hibbert: 6

(Average: 7.0)

Feel for the Game talent:

I rate Paul George’s feel for the game as one of the best in the NBA, showing supernatural fluidity, ease and control offensively along with his defensive instincts.

David West and Roy Hibbert are also among the best at their position in the category. West has superior craftiness and timing against his opponents, while Hibbert is the big easy recognizing plays offensively and defensively.

Hill is a noticeably smooth decision maker and thinker compared to his position. Stephenson is the most erratic Pacer in the starting lineup but I have always been impressed by his feel, fluidity and control on his drives. As he matures he can catch up to the rest of the Pacers in high IQ play thanks to this feel and raw instinct talent.

Feel for the Game talent grades;

George Hill: 8

Lance Stephenson: 8

Paul George: 10

David West: 9

Roy Hibbert: 9

(Average: 8.8)

Total grades:

George Hill

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 4

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 19

Lance Stephenson

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 8

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 20

Paul George

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade: 7

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 10

Total talent grade: 26

David West

Physical impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 21

Roy Hibbert

Physical impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9

Total talent grade: 21

Mirroring the Blazers, the Pacers have one talent in Paul George that rises above the rest, but importantly surround him with at least blue chip talents. The combination of elite feel for the game and length as a team helps them dominate defensively, while offensively they lean on their skill level to win games.

I believe it’s useful to cross compare a few of these players, to see the impact of each category.

For example, I gave Lamarcus Aldridge and David West and identical score in my skill impact and feel for the game categories. This means my system rates the difference between them in talent, as coming from Lamarcus Aldridge’s greater physical tools (athleticism and size). In fact I believe it’s reasonable to say that outside of physical talents, Aldridge and West are practically the exact player.

Likewise Paul George and Nic Batum’s skill level and feel for the game is very similar, as is Damian Lillard and George Hill’s. George and Lillard are both more physically dynamic players, helping them attack the basket get to a level up.

Roy Hibbert and Robin Lopez likewise rate similarly in my physical impact and skill impact categories. However Hibbert’s elite feel for the game gives him an advantage.

Wesley Matthews and Lance Stephenson are very hard to cross compare in this way, since Matthews strength of shooting is Lance’s weakness and Lance’s slashing is Matthews’ weakness. I’d use a player like Manu Ginobili or James Harden, to show what Lance’s talent could be if he had a shooting game like Wesley Matthews’. Or the reverse, Matthews may also be Harden or Manu if he could drive like Lance.

Coincidentally, adding up the grades of both starting lineups add up to the exact same score of 107, or an average of 21.4. Although the Trail Blazers came out of nowhere, for me their starting lineup’s talent level checks out as contention caliber.

NBA Franchise Power Rankings: #23 – Portland Trailblazers

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LaMarcus Aldridge playing with the Portland Tr...

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Previous rankings:

#30 - Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)
#29 - Phoenix Suns
#28 - Denver Nuggets
#27 - Detroit Pistons
#26 - Milwaukee Bucks
#25 - Philadelphia 76ers
#24 - Houston Rockets

#23 – Portland Trailblazers

Total Trade Value Ranking: #23 (Feb. 2011 ranking: #18)

Managerial Grade: C

Financial Grade: C

Best assets: PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge (legitimate all-star), SG Wesley Matthews (legitimate starter), SF Gerald Wallace (older legitimate starter), SF Nic Batum (borderline starter), , 2012 1st, PG Raymond Felton (expiring legitimate starter), RFA C Greg Oden (Mr. Glass), SF Luke Babbit (young, looked like a bust last year), C Marcus Camby (expiring legitimate starter), SG Elliot Williams (young, borderline NBAer), PG Patrick Mills (young, borderline NBAer), PG Armon Johnson (young, borderline NBAer)

Bad contracts: SG Brandon Roy (4 years, 61.7 mil guaranteed)

Draft picks indebted: 2013 1st to Charlotte (top 12 protected through 2015, unprotected in 2016)

Overall synopsis: If this list was done just in mid 2009, after Greg Oden’s rookie season where the team had a marvellous 54 W campaign and Brandon Roy‘s best, borderline MVP candidate season – the Blazers would’ve legitimately been ranked in the top 3 or 5 on the ladder. Perhaps even #1. It takes some seriously spooky forces to drop a team this heavily down from that point. Greg Oden and Brandon Roy’s careers all but being ended by injury, the latter just after a maximum contract had been given out, is that spooky force. What’s left is LaMarcus Aldridge realizing the star potential as a post player he may have always had – But not a ton else. Read the rest of this entry »

The NBA’s 50 Most Interesting People of ’10-11 (Part I)

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A countdown of the 50 most interesting people in the NBA this year based on what they have and have not

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done. This post will count down from 50 to 31.

50. Joel Anthony

Who’d have thunk that the 4th most important player after Miami’s Big 3 would be an undrafted guy who spent more time on the bench than on the floor in college? Dude’s become a living symbol of team balance. The Heat have so much focus on scoring with their 3 stars that not only can they afford to have a 2 PPG guy as stater – they STILL are putting too much emphasis on scorers even with a guy like Anthony.

49. LaMarcus Aldridge

With Roy falling on hard time, Aldridge has emerged as the Blazers’ star, as they continue to both disappoint and overachieve. Aldridge has yet to really capture our attention with star-like intrigue, but his new prominence is noteworthy.

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Dirk vs Aldridge, Hakeem vs Malone in ’95 and where the rubber meets the road in the playoffs

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Dirk Nowitzki playing with the Dallas Mavericks

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Two games into the Dallas-Portland series, Dallas has 2 Ws. Despite Dallas winning 57 games to Portland’s 48 in the regular season, Portland became the popular upset choice with their play after the Gerald Wallace trade and the overall “meh” feeling about the Mavericks roster. So far Dallas has proven the pundits wrong.

Both teams have played similarly. Dirk Nowitzki (30.5ppg) and LaMarcus Aldridge (25.5ppg) have scored a ton, the rest have been limited to ok shooting %s, due to strong defense on both sides. Both games were dead even at the start of the 4th, with a 61-61 tie with 10 minutes left in Game 1 and a 78-76 lead for Dallas with under 9 left in Game 2. Then the gap between Dirk and Aldridge became apparant. In Game 1 Dirk scored 15 points in the last 10 minutes while Aldridge scored 6. In Game 2 Dirk dropped 13 points in the last 9 minutes, Aldridge 3. Dirk assassinated the Blazers in both 4th quarters.

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Written by jr.

April 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

2011 POY Watch – End Regular Season

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The playoffs have begun, and now we will start to get into why I so stubbornly called this the “POY Watch” instead of the “MVP Watch”. By far the most meaningful award we could have for a player is one that factors in regular and post-season. That award doesn’t exist, so I say we make one up.

For those interested, during last off-season I ran a project over on RealGM I called the Retro POY project where we determined the player having the best season for all seasons back to ’54-55, the first year of the shot clock era. My post on this blog introducing the project and summarizing key findings is here.

During the playoffs, I’m going to jettison the weekly format of the regular season and instead do a round-by-round format. At the conclusion of all series for a given round, I will make an updated POY Watch. So that means there will be four more POY Watches after this one.

Without further ado, here are my rankings based on the whole regular season and nothing but the regular season.

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 20, 2011 at 1:21 am

2011 NBA POY Watch 3/14

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My weekly MVP rankings.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Derrick Rose (2)

Well now this awkward. I write my piece on why Dirk is the MVP, and then drop him down to #2. What gives? Dirk’s case is clear in my mind, but it faces major issues when the Mavericks drop in the standings. That may seem arbitrary to you, but I’d suggest it’s about the least arbitrary watershed you could have. So for now, Rose is back at #1.

2. Dirk Nowitzki (1)

As written, The Case for Dirk.

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The Gerald Wallace trade and the importance of big picture thinking

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Gerald WallaceOne of the most universally praised moves of the trade deadline is Portland acquiring Gerald Wallace for two late 1st round picks. Yes, no doubt the Blazers acquired the all-star Wallace at a cheap price. The Bobcats’ desire to clear Wallace’s contract (2 years, 21 million after this season) lowered his trade value to this level. This doesn’t mean it’s a smart move for the Blazers.

The value Wallace brings to a team is in the next 2 and a half seasons. After this he will be both an unrestricted free agent and a veteran over 30. As Wallace’s game is extremely reliant on athleticism, one can expect his production to fall off when his legs do. He’d thus be a great acquisition for a team like Dallas or San Antonio team trying to win a title in the next 3 seasons.

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Anatomy of the Indefensible Snub

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Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns of the National...

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So, NBA all-star reserves have been announced, and Steve Nash‘s name wasn’t on the list. I said I expected as much when I made my all-star picks, and gave the gist of my thoughts for why this was crazy. I want to go into them more clearly here, and then really examine how such a glaring snub is possible.

Objective Metrics put Nash ahead of Griffin

Blake Griffin got named to the all-star team in the first batch of reserve picks. I don’t actually have a problem with him making the team, but how does he make it over Steve Nash? Consider the following:

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Written by Matt Johnson

February 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm