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Why is LaMarcus Aldridge Taking Too Many Long Jumpers?

LaMarcus Aldridge got snippy with Oregonian writer Jason Quick last week when asked whether he thought he was taking too many outside shots. Aldridge responded by telling Quick that it must be the writers opinion that he was, since he was asking the question. Looking at Aldridge’s shot charts, it’s not whether he’s taking and missing too many long two-pointers. Perhaps a better question might by why Terry Stotts seems determined to keep LaMarcus Aldridge out of the paint.

From 2008 to 2012, Aldridge has averaged 7.5 FGAs from 9 feet or closer. It’s about average for a post player who likes to play the high post. But in the six games for which we have data, Aldridge is averaging just 3.6 FGA from inside 9 feet. What makes that number worse is that he’s averaging just one attempt per game from 3 to 9 feet – low block post ups – while everything else comes at the rim as layups or dunks.

The stat that jumps off the page should come as no surprise to Blazer fans. From 2008-2012, Aldridge averaged 5.5 FGAs from 16-23 feet. That number has skyrocketed to 11.2 FGAs in 2012-2013.

Perhaps where the issue lies isn’t in Aldridge’s shooting. Complaints of the strategy certainly feel like Aldridge has lost his stroke, but he’s actually shooting 43% from that range, tied for the best single season of his career and better than his average.

Looking over the shot selection percentages, is where it starts to get out of hand. On a season-to-season average starting in 2007-2008, Aldridge has taken 32.2% of his shots from 16-23 feet, 23.6% from 3-9 feet, and 26.8% at the rim (the rest coming from elsewhere).

Here’s his 2012-2013 numbers: 52% from 16-23 feet, 11% from 3-9 feet, and 17% at the rim with the rest coming from elsewhere.

Uh, what?

And it’s not just about distance for Aldridge, it’s about location. In the first six games of the year for Portland, he’s shot 36% of his 133 shots from straight away within or at the elbows. Aldridge is 6′ 11″ and shoots from high above his head. He’s a great baseline shooter, and it’s perplexing why anyone would choose to set him so far away from the basket on such an overwhelming majority of plays.

It spirals down for the Blazer forward from there. He’s posting career lows ing eFG%, TS% and offensive rating. His offensive win shares have plummeted three whole games, and his total win share average is down by almost an entire game. It’s not just the lows, but it’s how low. He’s dipping by entire percentage points, and he’s producing an ORtg of just 101. His career average outside of this season? 112.6.

If we look elsewhere, there’s not much else to explain the anomaly in Aldridge’s production. His usage rating is just 1.9% above the prior year, but it’s hard to think a 28-year-old forward in his prime would have such a drop in efficiency despite being used minimally more than he was last year.

What the Blazer coaching staff needs to understand is the effect this has on their team. Sure, Aldridge is less efficient offensively. But increased misses leads to more offensive possessions for opponents since Portland is such poor rebounding team.

Since he’s not on the block, Aldridge’s FTAs have dipped too, down two attempts per game since last season. That’s less high percentage points, and less help getting opposing forwards into foul trouble and off the floor.

Any way you slice it, you knew Aldridge’s numbers were not going to be pretty. But until I looked at them, I didn’t know just how catastrophic things were for Portland. Something needs to be done, and quickly, if the Blazers are going to retain any kind of efficiency.

Which takes us back to where we started. Aldridge snapping at Jason Quick doesn’t really solve anything. Aldridge isn’t to blame, and Quick is right in thinking Aldridge is taking too many long twos. Because he is. Terry Stotts has said that his offense is allowing for Aldridge to take shots as he’s given them. But if you’re given low-percentage shots, you should be fighting for better ones. The Blazers need to get Aldridge on the left block, going over his left shoulder, and soon.

Otherwise, LaMarcus Aldridge won’t be the only one snapping.

Dane Carbaugh

Editor of aYoungSabonis.com. Playbook Breakdowns on BlazersEdge. Newsdesk writer for SB Nation NBA. Follow me at @DaneCarbaugh
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