Aldridge possesses all the physical characteristics NBA GMs dream about in a big man. He has terrific size for an NBA big man at 6-11 or possibly even 7 feet, long arms that extend almost to his knees, and all-star caliber athletic ability. Aldridge is a quick and fluid player who moves like a ballerina and runs the floor like a guard. He is extremely coordinated for his size, and possesses a vertical leap that allows him to spring high off the floor in the blink of an eye. In todays modern NBA that is so much more reliant on quickness and athleticism rather than brute strength, he has the ability to play either the 4 or the 5 spot for his team depending on where he is drafted.
Offensively, Aldridge is about as talented and versatile as you can ask for out of a big man, but at the same time is also fundamentally sound. It is obvious that he was well coached as a youngster. He already has a number of silky smooth go-to moves in his arsenal that are downright impossible to stop at this level, mostly of the finesse type.
The first would be a terrific jump-hook shot. Aldridge sets up shop on the baseline anywhere out to 15 feet, catches the ball, spins to either shoulder, squares them simultaneously, elevates gracefully with one hand underneath the ball and flicks his wrist at the height of his leap with a soft touch. All in one quick, fluid motion. The second would be his turnaround jump-shot. When he doesnt have the strength or will to back his man all the way to the basket, Aldridge can catch the ball, spin and fade away quickly, elevate straight up off the ground and get high enough to give him all the time in the world needed to knock down his shot with deadly accuracy. Both of these moves are simple and fundamental, but Aldridge executes them perfectly and has the perfect physical characteristics to make them nearly unblockable. Watching him practice these moves, there is little doubt that he has spent some time studying tape on Kevin Garnett.
Since Aldridge appears to be used to playing with guards who often have absolutely no idea how to get him the ball in the paint, he is able to step outside and do some damage from there as well. He has a beautiful jump-shot with range out to about 18 feet, but has looked to rely less on this part of his game over the past few years, which is certainly a good from a player his size. With that said, having the ability to punish his man with a jump-shot makes him that much more versatile and dangerous.
Being a player who runs the floor like a deer and often beats guards down the floor with his huge strides, he is obviously a lethal finisher in transition. But he is also skilled and smart enough to not be a liability with the ball in his hands here, and can even do some ball-handling of his own, either to finish smoothly himself or find the open man. If you dont box out on the defensive end, hell get off his feet instantaneously and flush the put-back down emphatically.
Aldridge is not just able to get up and down the court in the blink of an eye; he is also quite willing as well, as he doesnt seem to tire easily. He is tough to get a body on in the paint because of his quickness and executes his moves fluidly enough that a smart guard can just run the floor with him, set him up in the paint with a good post-entry pass and walk away knowing that he will finish the play or get to the line. Aldridge gets low to the ground to catch the ball and can surprise his rival by elevating quickly and strongly for a soft finish off the glass. His reflexes are superb and his hands are good enough to let him catch nearly anything that is thrown his way as long as he isnt being pushed around too much.
At the line, Aldridge has all the makings of a very good free throw shooter, thanks to the perfect mechanics on his shot.
Defensively, Aldridge has extremely quick feet and the coordination and reflexes to react to most situations. His length, leaping ability and mind usually do the rest at the college level, blocking a decent amount of shots and altering countless others. In terms of rebounding, the same can be said. He has the physical gifts needed to simply outquick and outleap rivals in and out of the paint. This allows him to pull down double digit rebounds most games, many out of his area, without really breaking a sweat.
In terms of intangibles, everything Ive heard and seen says that he is a great teammate both on and off the court. At times you can tell that he wants to be somewhat of a leader on his team, but just doesnt know how yet. He is very unselfish, almost to a fault at times, but looks very good moving the ball around in a set offense, especially passing out of the double team. It wouldnt be a stretch to say that the game comes easy to him and that he is just now beginning to scrape the surface on his vast potential.
At age 20, Aldridge still hasnt fully grown into his frame and therefore is not yet strong enough to maximize his ability on both ends of the floor. Stronger opponents (as Shelden Williams has shown) can push him off the block and prevent him from getting into a groove offensively. He allows his man to front him on offense occasionally and will not be active or aggressive enough to punish him for it. The same goes with his defense and rebounding, not having the strength to establish position deep in the paint and fight off his man simply with his athleticism.
Offensively, Aldridge doesnt even look for the ball on certain possessions. He will post up, seal off his man, and look right at the guy with the ball, but wont absolutely demand it. This problem is compounded by the fact that he doesnt have a point guard on his team. At times he will be wide open and his guards simply can not find a way to get him the ball in time with a simple fundamental bounce pass. Despite this happening several times a game, Aldridge refuse to show frustration when almost every other talented back to basket big man certainly would. This tells you a lot both about the type of player and teammate he is. He is too passive at times considering how talented and just how much better he is than everyone else on the floor.
Aldridge is also not consistently aggressive enough as a defender or rebounder. He is good enough to be a very solid starter in the NBA just off his talent, but developing a real mean streak could make him into a superstar down the road. Like many young players, his motor is inconsistent and he can go for certain stretches without making his presence felt on the game. It would be nice to see him being more active at times rotating on defense and hustling for rebounds. He often relies on his hands and athleticism more than he does on his body in terms of boxing out and fighting for position defensively, but this could be partially due to a lack of strength. With his physical gifts, he has much more potential as a shot-blocker than he has shown at this point in his career. He doesnt seem to have the mentality, instincts or go-to-itiveness of a Dwight Howard or Marcus Camby type player. Many wonder whether he is soft, both mentally and physically.
With the way he plays on both ends of the floor, sometimes you have to wonder if Aldridge is just too nice for his own good. He has the tendency to go easy on his matchup when the game is in hand, not really having the demeanor of a player that wants to dominate everyone he goes up against. He is so smooth and effortless in everything he does that it doesnt always look like he is giving 100%. Watching him play, you might have the feeling that he just doesnt have any idea how good he can be in the future.
More than anything, Aldridge is still an inexperienced player. He only played in 14 games as a very raw freshman, and has very little big game experience to speak of at the time of this report. His performance in March will tell us something about his character and maybe about the type of player he can become in the future.
In high school, Aldridge was considered a top 10 recruit and was named a McDonald's All-American.
Now, Aldridge plays in the Big 12, a pretty physical and athletic conference that has a decent amount of size for him to match up with. As a very skinny freshman in his first 14 games he started off slowly and looked like he clearly had quite a bit of work ahead of him. Regardless, you could see that he had a lot of talent and was just beginning to really show it when he went down for the season with a hip injury that required surgery.
He came back bigger and much stronger as a sophomore and racked off 6 straight double-doubles (including against nationally ranked West Virginia and Iowa) to announce his return to the entire country. He had a tough outing in a blowout loss against Shelden Williams and Duke (scoring most of his 21 points in garbage time) and has been putting up big numbers since then. Foul trouble, the full-court press and Texas guards hampered him in a win against Memphis, but he has been very solid ever since. Texas appears to be cruising through the Big 12 and looks like they are on their way to a very nice seed in the NCAA Tournament. His play there could ultimately cement his place as the #1 pick if he can find a way to dominate and lead his team deep into the tournament.
With his physical characteristics, versatile offensive game, talent and intangibles, Aldridge is in a class of his own in this draft. Almost everything he does screams of upside. He has the potential to be a star and will be drafted in a position that is appropriate to that. Barring an injury or an absolute collapse in the NCAA tournament, he looks like a lock to be drafted in the top 5 and is as good a candidate as any to go #1.