The smooth mid-range jumper that makes LaMarcus Aldridge one of the deadliest gunslingers in the West has gone missing to start the season.
During Wednesday night’s defeat at the hands of Miami, Aldridge shot just 2/14 from the floor. He struggled mightily against Hassan Whiteside both in the paint and from mid-range, showing that his transition to the center position is still very much a work in progress.
He shot 44 percent from outside the restricted area last year, but now that’s down to 30 percent. It’s confusing considering he had to create so much of the offense out of the post by himself last year, and this year DeMar DeRozan is spoon feeding him the wide open 15-foot jump shots that Aldridge typically makes better than most other players in the world.
So what is wrong with his shot? Well, it’s tough to say. After reviewing tape from last year and this year, there isn’t one thing that Aldridge is consistently doing wrong with his form. It’s not like all of his shots are long, or short, or left or right. It’s a tapestry of bad misses for different reasons.
Hassan Whiteside played out of his mind in Miami on Wednesday night, scoring 29 points to go along with 20 rebounds and 9 blocks. He’s an anomaly, but Aldridge is going to struggle against athletic 7 footers unless he makes some adjustments to his game.
For most of his career, Aldridge made a living bullying smaller defenders down low and shooting a high-release jumper that not many power forwards can block. Now at center, his matchups often have the length to contest those shots well.
Aldridge’s poor execution against the Heat can partially be attributed to poor game planning. Whiteside has a reputation for chasing blocks at the expense of team defense. After he swatted a ridiculous nine shots and spent the rest of the game chasing his tenth, LaMarcus had an opportunity, no, an obligation to punish his aggressiveness with pump fakes.
Whiteside was contesting super aggressively, and it worked all night because Aldridge stayed with the jumper. Not gonna play a block hunter every game, but he has to attack this with pump fakes into drives or better shots. pic.twitter.com/kg6WIIk98P
— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) November 8, 2018
When Aldridge was fortunate enough to be looking at a defender other than Whiteside, he seemed to rush his shots a bit. He chucked this one up with his shoulders askew and the ball on his right hip, so it’s no surprise the shot missed badly to the side.
Aldridge also seems to be kicking his right leg more on fadeaways, and that is most likely having a negative impact on his accuracy. Any jerky movement of that right leg can throw off the motion of his right arm, and we’re seeing it more and more from him this year. When he has done it in the past, it’s been far less pronounced than this truly wild judo kick.
Many will point out that this is the shot Dirk Nowitzki has been drilling for the past 20 years, and they’re right. However, it’s not Aldridge’s shot. He built his own deadly jumper sitting in a chair with an injured leg. As a general rule, the less LaMarcus moves his lower body on jumpers the better. On fadeaways, look for that right leg to rise up more slowly as he leans back.
When he hit jumpers against DeAndre Ayton and Phoenix, his lower body was much more still. It also doesn’t hurt shooting over smaller defenders.
Bryn Forbes sets a pin down screen for Aldridge.
He doesn’t seem to dip the ball below his waist like he normally does before firing here. pic.twitter.com/mZ6uYFJcn8
— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) November 8, 2018
All of these little things still don’t explain why Aldridge looks so uncomfortable on the open shots that he misses badly. He seems to rush this one a bit, snapping his elbow forcefully resulting in a very long doink. He doesn’t follow through with a confident gooseneck, it’s more of a Steve Urkel, “Did I do that?”
Aldridge shoots with a pretty fluid motion here but again bricks it, this time to the left. It looks like he hesitates just a bit right as he’s about to release the shot, and that probably caused this miss.
We hear all the time about how ‘aiming’ shots actually causes inaccuracy. It might seem counterintuitive, but ideally, a shooter shouldn’t be thinking about where the ball is going to go, especially as they release it. Shots should be aimed using years of muscle memory, not a last second decision and flick of the wrist.
Defenses are making life difficult for Aldridge in the post, either with a 7-foot rim protector or with double teams whenever he touches the ball down low. The bottom line is he hasn’t been able to get comfortable shooting the rock, and that’s impacting his performance and confidence even when he’s wide open.
If he gets back to being the LaMarcus Aldridge who led the Spurs to the playoffs last year, it will be because he puts up thousands of shots in empty gyms, settles his form down, and stops thinking about it too much.
View the original article on Project Spurs: Friday Film: What’s Wrong With Aldridge’s Jumper?