2010 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Cole Aldrich

Editor's Note, by rook6980: This is the seventh installment of a series of regular postings on draft prospects.  This series will take a look at the top draft prospects for the 2010 NBA Draft in June. The plan is to have one or two a week, leading up to a flurry of activity the week of the draft. My DVR is crammed full of college games, and I'm watching and writing as fast as I can (between Wizards games).

Draft Prospect assessments:
John Wall
Evan Turner
Wesley Johnson
Derrick Favors
DeMarcus Cousins
Al-Farouq Aminu
Cole Aldrich       
Greg Monroe          Upcoming
Patrick Patterson   Upcoming
Ed Davis                 Upcoming
Ekpe Udoh             Upcoming
Damion James     Upcoming


Cole Aldrich

  • 21 years old
  • 6'11"; 250 lbs.
  • Kansas, Junior

I like Cole Aldrich. Certainly not for a top 5 pick, but for a pick in the mid-;ottery or later, someone is going to get solid basketball player. He might not become a superstar, but he'll be a solid rotation player or starter, even for a good team). He should be able to step right in as a rookie and contribute.

Aldrich had a terrific sophomore campaign, where he was named Big-12 All-Conference first team and recorded the first official triple-double in the history of Kansas basketball (13 points, 20 rebounds, 10 blocks against Dayton in the NCAA tournament). His stock skyrocketed, and many mock drafts had him in the top five in the 2009 NBA Draft, which was bereft of big men and centers in particular. Then surprisingly, Aldrich decided to go back to Kansas for his junior year.

Although he has been named All Big 12 First Team again in 2010, his scoring numbers are down from last year. With more scorers on the team than last year, like Sherron Collins (15.2 ppg), Xavier Henry (13.4 ppg) and Tyshawn Taylor (7.2 ppg), the Jayhawks didn't need as much scoring from Aldrich this year, so he concentrated on defense and rebounding. The result is that he may have hurt his draft stock. I've seen him listed anywhere from sixth to 12th, but his stock has been falling, partly because of his scoring decline, but also because of Kansas' early departure from the NCAA tournament and the fact that there are a lot more big men in the 2010 draft than last year.  I doubt Aldrich is the kind of player that will make a big impression at individual workouts or in the helter-skelter games played in the NBA's Pre-Draft Camp, so I expect him to continue sliding down the draft boards. I think he'll be drafted in the low lottery (picks 10-14). It's unfortunate, because I think his game will translate well to the NBA.

Cole Aldrich is a throwback, back-to-the-basket, defensive minded "true" center.  He likes to bang and work inside. With a 7'4" wingspan, his length allows him to play taller than his 6'11" height, and at 250 lbs, he's very difficult to back down in the post. I'll be very interested to find out what Cole Aldrich really measures at the pre-draft camp. I wouldn't be surprised if he's a true 7-footer (in socks); he just looks bigger than 6'11" to me.

Aldrich has very good strength for a college big man, but he will need need to continue add muscle and weight in the NBA. I would say that Aldrich is only a fair athlete. He runs the floor effectively, and is smooth and mobile for a big man, but he lacks that explosive leaping ability that GM's seem to covet. Aldrich has good agility and excellent coordination and body control, allowing him to do some surprisingly positive things on the fast break and around the basket. He has adequate quickness for his size and although he's not what I would call "fast," he runs full out every play, which helps to mitigate his lack of true foot speed.

Offensively, Aldrich is a pretty efficient scorer for a low usage guy (9.7 possessions per game), sporting a 28.7 PER and 1.16 points per possession. That PpP number (Points per Possession) is better than most of the other Big Men in the lottery (including Cousins at 1.14 and Favors at 1.11). He has excellent technique and footwork in the post. He establishes and holds deep post position, and with a wide stance and active soft hands he catches every entry pass thrown his way. He's worked hard on a nice left handed jump hook that he uses effectively. Sometimes he can be a bit mechanical, especially with his ball handling, but he's effective nonetheless. He rarely takes more than one or two dribbles, so it's difficult to gauge his ball handling skills, but I would expect they're poor. During his junior year, he's started to show some advanced post moves (spins, pivots, etc.) and he's got a real nice drop step.

He finishes well around the basket, and seems to relish contact, actually LOOKING for someone to bang into. Surprisingly, he only shoots about 4.4 Free Throws a game, and his FT percentage actually dropped from his Sophomore year (79.2%) to his Junior year (67.9%). He'll need to bring that percentage back up in the NBA. When doubled, he has been impressive in finding open teammates and cutters. He's a much better passer than he's given credit for.

Aldrich has shown the ability to step out and hit the 12-15 foot jump shot, but even though he's effective with it, and he shoots a decent percentage, his mechanics are ugly. His shot is awkward, and his follow through is not always consistent; which is weird, since his Free Throw stroke IS consistent, if a bit unorthodox. Fortunately, he seems to understand that he's better suited to banging down low, and he takes very few outside shots.

It's worth noting that Aldrich rarely does anything out of his comfort zone. He sticks to what he's good at. You won't see him leading the fast break, dribbling behind his back or swooping in for a scoop finger roll from 8 feet away. He's a fundamentally sound offensive player, but he won't WOW you with spectacular plays.

Although Aldrich has some offensive potential and might be able to average double figures in points - he will make his mark on the next level with his defense, rebounding and shot-blocking. On defense, Aldrich shows very good defensive fundamentals and spatial awareness, knowing where to be at all times. Even though he's not fleet of foot, he really hustles back on defense and rarely gets beat down court, even by faster opponents. An eager and energetic defender, Aldrich displays excellent footwork, anticipation, timing and focus.

He shows well on the pick-and-roll, but sometimes has trouble getting back to his man, especially if that player is quicker and faster. Not comfortable at all guarding guys on the perimeter, his strength is his interior presence and, of course, his help defense. He's very hard to back down in the paint, holding his ground and lots of times pushing the opponent off the block. Because he plays fundamentally sound positional defense, he's difficult go around despite his lack of lateral quickness. An excellent help defender and shot blocker off the ball, Aldrich is averaging an almost unbelievable 5.2 blocks per 40 minutes. He blocks shots from the weak side, from behind, in one-on-one situations and on penetration. In the games I watched, most teams just simply stopped trying to go inside when Aldrich was in the game after having three or four of their shots sent back. Because he's slightly "vertically challenged," he may never be an elite shot blocker - but he should still get his fair share of blocks in the NBA.

Aldrich is also a very good rebounder, utilizing his great length and size to a maximum advantage. He's especially good on the defensive boards, finding his man and blocking out. He doesn't mind the banging and physical contact, often initiating it himself. Again, you won't see Aldrich scooping balls out of the air one handed, or flying in for spectacular put-back dunks. He uses his length and height, along with an innate sense of where the ball will come off the rim, then he goes up strong with two hands. He's not quick enough or fast enough to get rebounds outside of his immediate area, but he will snap up anything within his reach. He's strong, and will rip balls away from his opponent, and it's extremely rare to see his man beat him to the rim for the ball.

He plays with a very high intensity level, running the floor at full speed and with purpose. He's extremely focused, never losing track of his man, or where he is on the court. An intelligent player, he understands his limitations and as a result, rarely makes the stupid mistakes common to careless or sloppy players. After three years at Kansas, he's experienced, polished and poised. Everything I've read about him indicates he's a player with an excellent work ethic. I've also read that he's pretty tough and competitive, having a tooth knocked out in one game and playing in the second half against Nebraska with a broken nose, but it's difficult to see that on tape.

STRENGTHS:

  • Old time back-to-the basket Center
  • Excellent size, bulk and length
  • Strong and tough
  • Very long wingspan (7'4")
  • Solid frame - should be able to add weight
  • Active, agile and mobile
  • Intangibles: Experience, poise, intensity, focus, work ethic, Basketball IQ
  • Soft hands, catches everything
  • Very good passer
  • Excellent footwork
  • Holds position in the post
  • Efficient scorer
  • Defensive fundamentals
  • One-on-one defense
  • Shot-blocking
  • Help defense
  • Rarely makes mistakes - understands his strengths & weaknesses
  • Should be able to play right away
WEAKNESSES:
  • Vertically challenged
  • Only average athleticism
  • Ugly jump shot - bad mechanics
  • Doesn't get to the line enough
  • Limited upside - won't get a whole lot better
  • Ball handling

Because of Aldrich's defense, shot blocking and rebounding, he will be selected somewhere in the lottery in this June's NBA draft. At worst, he'll be a solid rotation player, but my guess is he'll be a good starting center for most of his career; with the potential to be a double-double guy while adding a couple of blocks. Most mock drafts see Cole Aldrich's best case as Joel Przybilla, or Emeka Okafor. But while I was writing this piece, I was struck with the similarities between Aldrich and Brendan Haywood. Fundamentally sound defenders that can rebound and block shots. Good help defenders. Great size and length. Agile and mobile big men with poor ball handling skills. I think Aldrich is a better passer and has better hands (although Haywood has worked to get better catching the ball), while Haywood might be a bit more athletic. Both have an ugly jump shot and are better off operating on offense in the immediate basket area. A couple of fundamentally-sound players that rarely do anything out of their comfort zone. Old School back-to-the-basket centers with little to no face-up game. Mistake free, focused, hard working hard-hat type players.

Yeah - Cole Aldrich could be the next Brendan Haywood. There, I said it.

Aldrich_medium

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