Clippers 2015-16 Player Preview: Cole Aldrich


2014-15 Statistics

5.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 BPG, 47.8 FG percentage, 78.1 FT percentage, 18.1 PER.

Last Season

In our last Los Angeles Clippers 2015-16 player preview, we looked at Lance Stephenson, who’s coming off the worst year of his career. However, another of the Clippers’ new additions enjoyed his best season yet in 2014-15.

That man is none other than Cole Aldrich.

He may have played for the lowly New York Knicks, who finished the year with a dismal 17 wins, but Aldrich put together a season that is highly respectable for a backup center. He stepped into the biggest role of his career with career highs in minutes per game (16) and starts (16). And while those numbers may not sound very impressive, it’s his performance that sounds far more impressive when breaking down his production per 36 minutes.

In that time frame, Aldrich averaged 12.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. So, for a Clippers team who ranked a modest 15th in defensive efficiency and 16th in rebounding rate, that kind of ability is worth signing.

There’s far more to defensive impact than some per 36 minute averages, though. No player can be judged in any aspect of their game based on three numbers alone. Yet, even when delving deeper into the numbers behind Aldrich’s performance last season, they support the argument that he’s a perfect fit to play at backup center in addition to the small-ball option of Josh Smith.

Aldrich only held opponents to 51.4 percent shooting at the rim last season, which isn’t the best stat when considering what he has to offer. Anything over 50 percent for a 6’11” center just isn’t that great. His overall defense in the paint is a little better, though. Within six feet of the basket, Aldrich forced opponents to shoot 3.6 percent worse than their season average from that range.

We’ll soon get onto his defense away from the basket as we discuss his fit with the Clippers. That’s when a lumbering guy like Aldrich can’t quite excel in the same way. However, the interior presence that Aldrich can bring as both a rebounder and rim protector was on full display last season.

That’s really all that Doc Rivers can ask of him.

This Summer

Thankfully for the Clippers, they were able to bring back DeAndre Jordan from the prying claws of the Dallas Mavericks. It saved their 2015-16 season, and saved Jordan from having to play with a Mavs team who won’t come close to contending in the Western conference this year.

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DJ wasn’t the only center that the Clippers signed this offseason, though. The addition of Aldrich on a veteran’s minimum contract for one year and only $1.1 million was a bargain. Also, with a player option for 2016-17 as well, he’ll be sticking around in L.A. for another year if he suits the Clippers this season.

For a team who need defense and rebounding, which just so happen to be Aldrich’s two best attributes, signing him for a veteran’s minimum contract makes perfect sense. But for a Clippers team who had virtually no cap space to play with, a signing that addresses two areas of weakness for such a small price is the best move that Doc could have made.

2014-15 Highlights

The entire Knicks team didn’t have many highlights combined last season, so Aldrich didn’t exactly have loads of big moments in his 16 minutes per game. However, in his final game of the regular season, he played 27 minutes to put together a season-high 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds (seven of which were offensive):

24 points would be nice from Aldrich each week for the Clippers, but there’s pretty much no chance of that actually happening. Even if he can’t score frequently, though, he can still clear up the boards for put-backs and knock down his free throws if opponents adopt a hack-a-Jordan strategy.

Next is a play that simply can’t be forgotten if you were brave enough to watch any Knicks games last season. As dunk-happy rookie Andrew Wiggins looked to rise to the rim for an easy finish, Aldrich rejected him with ease and serious authority:

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For a slow center like Aldrich, his defense when moving away from the basket wasn’t nearly as effective last season. From more than 15 feet out, players shot seven percent higher than normal against him. Or, in the very rare incident that he had to cover a player at the perimeter, opponents shot 15.5 percent higher than normal from three point range. That being said, for a Clippers’ second unit who only need Aldrich to serve as a backup anchor in the paint, who are armed with highly athletic power forwards such as Josh Smith and Blake Griffin to play alongside him, the troubles from distance shouldn’t be much of an issue.

There is one primary situation where it can be a problem, though. That same lack of speed also makes him a liability at times in pick-and-roll defense, especially if he moves too close to the ball handler and can’t get back to the basket quick enough to defend the big man rolling into the paint.

For any player, limited athleticism isn’t ideal, but it’s hardly a major problem when stellar athletes like Griffin, Jordan and even Smith will have most of the minutes available.

In an interview with FOX Sports West during a press conference after he signed with the Clippers, Aldrich gave his own take on how he can help the team’s second unit. In his own words, he described the exact role he needs to fulfil:

He knows his role and he’ll stick to it. That’s an important asset to have in a bench featuring run-and-gun type players such as Jamal Crawford and Stephenson who love to create their own shots and constantly improvise.

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The fact that Aldrich is limited offensively may even be beneficial to the Clippers. With so many offensive minded players coming off the bench, the defense-first mindset of Aldrich may help. Furthermore, on top of the defensive stats already mentioned, he even recorded a total rebounding percentage of 2o last season; just 4.5 percent behind league leading rebounder DeAndre Jordan. It’s that tough rebounding rate and interior presence that helped Aldrich lower the offensive rating of the Knicks’ opponents whenever he was on the floor.

For a center whose only job is to backup an All-NBA third team player like Jordan, Aldrich has the defense and rebounding to perfectly compliment the Clippers’ second unit in a limited role. Even if he wasn’t one of the most high profile players to come to L.A. this summer, he could still become one of the most valuable.

All the Clippers need from Aldrich is short spells of rim protection and rebounding.

More than anything else, that’s exactly what he can do.

Next: Clippers 2015-16 Player Preview: Lance Stephenson