So, what exactly is Cole Aldrich good at?


There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding the Clippers’ bench following its latest addition. Dubbed “the Suicide Squad” by a Twitter user (I love this nickname; it’s the complete opposite of “A Tribe Called Bench” in every way possible) due to its enigmatic and erratic cast of characters — mainly Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson — one acquisition has somewhat fallen under the radar: now-backup center Cole Aldrich.

Quite an unknown to fans, here’s what we know about Aldrich: he was a former lottery pick who failed to stick in Oklahoma City before being traded to the Sacramento Kings, who eventually moved the Minnesota native to the Houston Rockets. Shortly after, Aldrich would find his way on the New York Knicks where he had a career year.

That’s … well, pretty much it; a simple biography.

What we don’t know? What exactly it is that Aldrich thrives at and how good — or bad — he is in the areas that usually define a NBA center.

What is true the Clippers need very little from whomever is the backup center — just a player who can hold the fort down for 10-12 minutes a night. But even finding that player has been a task during the Doc Rivers regiment: Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens weren’t good; Spencer Hawes was good at the things the Clippers didn’t necessarily need; the best bet had been Glen Davis, an undersized, average NBA player; now, Aldrich.

In typical fashion, statistics are sought after to judge talent on the surface and find what someone excels in If player X is a known three-point marksman, we seek three-point percentages. If player Z is a known playmaker, we seek assists per game and assist percentages. For centers of the non-floor spacing fashion, statistics that are typically looked at: rebounds, blocks, field-goal percentage, rim-protection numbers, etc.


Playing “extended minutes” for the first time in his career, Aldrich averaged a career-best 5.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per contest, more than any L.A. player not named DeAndre Jordan (15.0) and Blake Griffin (7.6); backups Glen Davis and Spencer Hawes averaged a combined 5.8 rebounds per. Stretching the per boundaries to per-36 minutes (FWIW, Aldrich never once played 36 minutes or more last season in New York), Aldrich averaged 12.5 rebounds.

What do those numbers mean? Aldrich is a pretty good rebounder, which will help the Clippers who, even if they can’t improve as a defensive team (which is unlikely given off-season additions), can limit how many possessions the opposing teams have on a nightly basis.


The go-to statistics nowadays to get a glimpse of how well someone performs on defense are on-off numbers and rim protection stats, and sometimes ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus statistic, which isn’t perfect but gives perspective from another angle.

The on-off numbers for Aldrich weren’t pretty: 90.7 offensive rating, 106.7 defensive rating, -16.0 net rating. But as a whole the Knicks weren’t a good team, on either side, making it hard to get a feel for the big man’s ability to impact defenses while on the floor.

Then, rim protection: Per SportsVU, Aldrich allowed opponents to shoot 51.4% at the rim on six attempts per game — also not good.

Then, ESPN’s RPM: among centers, Aldrich ranked 29th overall in Defensive Real Plus-Minus with a rating of 1.51, in the range of players such as Hassan Whiteside, Robin Lopez, Kendrick Perkins, John Henson, and Jonas Valunciunas — not bad, though if Aldrich was what Whiteside or Lopez was on defense last year, he would’ve earned more than the veteran’s minimum this summer.

So far, what we have on our hands, based only on statistics, is a so-so defender who doesn’t protect the rim well but somehow grades out well through an advanced measure. Next up to judge Aldrich on that end? Looking over film.

Glancing through tape of the 2014-15 Knicks when Aldrich was on the floor, a good sign was Aldrich’s ability to know where to be on help-defense. Issues arose when Aldrich was pulled away from the basket, like most so-so big defenders, when defending the pick-and-roll. Against the Cavaliers, a bad decision and slow recovery from Aldrich leads to an open three-pointer thanks to Aldrich’s defense attempting to overcompensate for the big man’s mistake.

Given Aldrich’s struggles to be effective on defense when forced to move his feet, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s affected by Doc Rivers’ want for his big men to step out on guards in the pick-and-roll, as seen by Blake Griffin below:

There’s more that can be looked at in a more in-depth piece but the tape fits the above statements, making Aldrich out to be an okay defender —


The simplest way to sum up Aldrich the offensive player: if he’s not shooting the ball inside of the paint, he’s probably not going to shoot the ball — per NBA Stats, all but seven of Aldrich’s 301 attempts came inside the paint (shot 64.2% in restricted area, 35.5% in the paint [non-RA]).

Here are some specifics via Synergy Sports:

  • Roll-Man: 18.7% of offense, 0.97 PPP (Points Per Play), 48.5 FG%, 4.2% TO Frequency
  • Post-Up: 31.6% of offense, .70 PPP, 38.4 FG%, 13.9 TO Frequency
  • Cut: 20.2% of offense, 1.10 PPP, 57.1 FG%, 9.0% TO Frequency
  • Put-Back: 14.5% of offense, 1.11 PPP, 54 FG%, 1.8% TO Frequency

What do those numbers mean exactly? If asking Aldrich to do much on offense, it’ll backfire; if the opposite, he’ll be fine — personnel additions for the Clippers shades to more of the latter This off-season the Clippers have added Paul Pierce, likely the starter, and improved the bench with the signing  of Josh Smith and trade for Lance Stephenson. The Smith/Stephenson combo will not only help toward improving the range of the bench’s offensive scoring, but add a playmaking dynamic that’ll make things easy for a guy Cole, such as this:


The conclusion? Aldrich is a slightly below average NBA center, whose value lies more in his ability to be an imperfect defender — not too good to be considered a difference-maker or elite but not bad enough to be mentioned aside an Enes Kanter — and a solid rebounder. Will he move the needle for the Clippers? Not much, but Aldrich is more a lateral move than one that’d force the Clippers’ bench to trend backwards.

“There have been a few stretches over my career where I’ve had the opportunity to play here or there,” said Aldrich to the New York Times in December of 2014.“I take the same approach every time that it happens, which is go out there and play hard, rebound, play defense and score when given the opportunity.” Considering the players around him and those who played in the role before him, that may be good [enough] for Aldrich and the Clippers.