Every year a high number of underclassmen enter the NBA Draft, and most of the time we’re left thinking, “just stay in school another year! You’re nowhere near ready!”
Cole Aldrich may have been an exception in 2009. After Blake Griffin, the next power forwards and centers selected were Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill, and Tyler Hansbrough—all players that Aldrich could have outperformed even last year.
But Aldrich stayed in school. Surprisingly, his numbers dropped in every major category (points, rebounds, assists, FG percentage, and FT percentage). And he didn’t develop a killer instinct, a dominant persona in the post; he was much more willing to play second string to Sherron Collins.
Now, he’s just another big man in a class that’s loaded with power forwards and centers. NBA teams will face a difficult decision: do they take Aldrich and get know pretty much exactly what they’re getting, or do they go with a younger player with more potential that could have more of an impact down the line?
NBA Position: C
Weight: 245 lbs.
At just over 6’11” with a 7’4” wingspan, Aldrich is one of the biggest bodies in the paint in this year’s crop of power forwards.
He’s a high energy player in the paint and can control the boards on both ends. He averaged 11.1 rebounds as a sophomore (3.0 on offense) and 9.8 as a junior (3.1 on offense).
Few people are going to work as hard in the paint as Aldrich. He’ll get good position on shot attempts, he’ll put a body on anybody inside, and, much like Kevin Love, he’s good at grabbing rebounds and immediately getting the ball into a guard’s hands so they can push the tempo.
Offensively, he knows his role. He’s going to get a lot of his points on put-backs, tip-ins, and lay-ups and dunks created by others on offense. But he’s fine with this; he’ll do the dirty work inside and not get much credit. He has a decent jump hook, but it’s not really a go-to move in the NBA.
Defensively, he’s a solid one-on-one player down low. He uses his size to be physical with opponents and push them off of their comfort spots.
His tremendous length allows him to roam around the interior and anchor a defense. He averaged 3.5 blocks per game last year and there’s no reason to think he can’t be as effective at the next level.
But perhaps his biggest strength is what some would consider one of his weaknesses: he realizes his limitations and is much more comfortable being a role player than being the man. There’s nothing wrong with that, but many teams will reach for a player in the top-10 hoping he can develop into something great.
You know what you’re going to get with Aldrich: a solid low post player that’s an above-average defender, fantastic shot-blocker, and clean-up rebounder. Just because he doesn’t have the upside of several other power forwards doesn’t mean he won’t be better than a handful of them.
Defensively, he doesn’t have too many shortcomings…unless a team decides to play him at power forward. He then might have trouble keeping up with athletic and versatile guys (i.e. Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh).
But against traditional, low-post players that play with their back to the basket? No problem.
It’s his offensive game where he needs the most work. Other than some basic, fundamental parts to his game, he doesn’t have the pedigree required to be a dominant factor in the paint. He lacks a go-to one-on-one move that the best post players in the league possess.
He’s not very adept on his feet; he doesn’t move laterally very well. In terms of his athleticism, he’s far behind guys like Derrick Favors, Al-Farouq Aminu, or Ekpe Udoh.
Perhaps the most troubling part of his junior year at Kansas wasn’t the fact that his numbers dropped, but his overall impact did. People were waiting for him to develop the “I’m doing whatever the hell I want and you can’t stop me” state of mind, but it never came. So teams might be hesitant pulling the trigger on a complementary player rather than a star.
NBA Comparison: Jamaal Magloire
Draft Projection: Mid-to-late lottery