Most people have been disappointed with the selection of Aldrich to this point as they still call for that elusive “big man” to come swooping in and save the Thunder from their 26-13 record and first place spot in the Northwest Division. But the Aldrich pick was and remains about the future. Like everything else in Oklahoma City, it’s about developing talent.
So instead of sitting on the end of the bench, Sam Presti has utilized his options. Aldrich has spent the past few weeks in Tulsa developing his game with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate 66ers.
Wednesday, the 66ers were on NBATV as part of the D-League Showcase and Aldrich has his best game as a professional at any level. He scored 19 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked seven shots. He was a dominant post presence on both ends. And before you say, “Well this is the D-League,” yes that’s true, but Aldrich was playing against a guy many believe will be called up in the near future in Chris Johnson.
- First, how about this freaking sky hook Aldrich busted out? If that’s really something he’s going to have as part of his game, then I might be so giddy that I’ll have to wear adult diapers to games from now on. I think more than anything, it really showcases how hard he’s working to at least become an offensive option. That hook isn’t something he had three months ago. He’s been working, and it shows.
- One big negative I see in Aldrich is that he drifts at times. He just kind of gets lost in the flow the game and stops impacting anything. He really turns into that kind of big man that gets stuck in between 3-point lines. He just shuffles back and forth up and down the court. I don’t know if that’s because he’s tired and a bit out of shape because he hasn’t seen a ton of game action the past few months or if it’s a mental thing where he takes plays off. But he has the length and ability to constantly impact a game. When he’s assertive and locked in, he makes a difference. I don’t necessarily think it’s an effort thing with him, just probably habit.
- To that point, I noticed he got caught a few times not rotating at all from the weakside. The seven blocks are very nice, but it could’ve been 10 had he rotated properly.
- He actually passes really well out of a double-team. That’s not something he’ll see a lot of in the NBA, but still, Aldrich can move the ball a bit.
- I think his biggest hurdle is actually feeling confident enough in his skills to try and assert himself. Especially offensively, he something doesn’t really look sure of himself. Like he’s thinking, “Am I really capable of hitting this baby hook? OK, here we go, drop-step, dribble…” Aldrich just has to get to the point where everything comes from instinct. Oh, I’ve got an iso on the block here? Boom, baby hook.
- Look at the picture at the top. Both hands!
- There is no reason he can’t be a good big man in the league. An All-Star, no. But I see Aldrich having the opportunity to average 10 points and eight rebounds routinely.
- Not about Aldrich, but don’t forget that Latavious Williams is a Thunder player now. And he’s got some serious potential. He’s extremely raw, but he could become a nice power forward too.
- With all that said, Aldrich does just look awkward. He doesn’t move like an NBA player.
Remember, Aldrich was the 11th pick in the draft. He set the single-season blocks record at Kansas. The guy can play. To label anyone a bust just three months into their NBA career is unfair. Big men develop more slowly than others. Joakim Noah wasn’t much his first two years even and now he’s one of the premier big men in the league.
Aldrich could certainly still be Robert Swift, but he could also pan out into something pretty good. I see a lot of ability there. It’s just a matter of being patient and hoping Aldrich refines those abilities into a quality NBA big man.