Free Agent Mid-Range Savant Could Fill Celtics Bench Role

LaMarcus Aldridge, Boston Celtics

Getty LaMarcus Aldridge, Boston Celtics

Danilo Gallinari’s ACL injury has left the Boston Celtics a little short in the forward department before the season has even got underway, and now Brad Stevens and the front office need to make a decision on whether to stick with their current roster or look for additional help.

Ideally, any player the Celtics sign to help cover for Gallinari will be a veteran capable of spending time at both the power forward and center positions. Although, positional diversity should be a secondary concern, with the franchise instead focusing on getting the best possible player without going too much deeper into the luxury tax.

Enter, LaMarcus Aldridge, a true NBA veteran with the size and scoring profile to deputize for Gallinari in the coming season. Aldridge is six-foot-eleven and has been in the NBA for 16 years, with his lost stop being with the Brooklyn Nets.

During the earlier phases of his career, Aldridge was primarily seen as a power forward, but as his body has slowed with age, he has been utilized at the center position with positive results.

In his September 2 article for NBC Sports Boston, Nick Goss listed Aldridge as one of Boston’s better options to replace the injured Gallinari, primarily due to his mid-range scoring ability, and the impact he can make when playing as a drop defender while guarding the pick-and-roll.

“Aldridge played 47 games for the Brooklyn Nets last season and scored in double figures for the 16th consecutive year. He would give the Celtics scoring in the midrange and low post, some much-needed rebounding, and size, as well as plenty of playoff experience (72 career postseason games). He’s not a 3-point shooter, but he’s been above 80 percent from the free throw line most of his career,” Goss wrote.

Should Boston decide to extend a contract offer to Aldridge, it would be interesting to see if he would move ahead of Luke Kornet in the Celtics’ depth chart, or whether he would be seen as a situational player throughout the regular season.


Looking at Aldridge’s Offensive Skills

If we’re being honest, Gallinari was never acquired due to his defensive upside, and it’s likely his replacement won’t be a plus defender either. Instead, Boston will be looking to obtain some additional firepower for their bench, should they choose to sign a replacement player via free agency or trade.

At his age, Aldridge is somewhat of a stationary defender, relying on his size and wingspan to deter shooting attempts around the rim – but his offensive game is still potent, especially in the mid-range.

This past season, Aldridge shot 54% from the mid-range, ranking him in the 91st percentile of big men across the NBA – including power forwards. The Texas native is exemplary at getting his shots off around the elbows when fading off screens or operating as a pick-and-pop threat – while he’s also incredibly adept at attacking close-outs from the perimeter.

Sure, Aldridge isn’t the corner three-point threat that Gallinari is, but his ability to set solid screens, and then attack the space behind the perimeter defense is a skill that’s in short supply in the modern NBA. And of course, we can’t forget about the impact Aldridge can provide on the boards, as even this past season, he averaged 5.5 rebounds per game, with 1.6 of them coming on the offensive side of the floor.


Carmelo Anthony Remains Boston’s Best Option

Aldridge is just one of multiple options the Celtics could look to pursue as a replacement for Gallinari this season. Carmelo Anthony is arguably Boston’s best option as a ready-made replacement for the role Gallinari was set to play next season, which is that of a scoring forward off the bench.

Since making the move to a bench role in 2020, Anthony has been a 39.1% three-point shooter on 5.2 attempts per game and has been a reliable catch-and-shoot threat when playing off-ball – something which has accounted for 21.9% of his total offense over the last two seasons, per Instat’s tracking data.

Like Gallinari and Aldridge, Anthony isn’t known for his defense, but rather his ability to galvanize a bench’s offense, either by taking the shots himself, or using his scoring gravity to generate open lanes to the rim or easier shots due to a limited amount of defensive attention.

Regardless of who Brad Stevens decides to sign, one thing is clear…If Boston wishes to maintain the depth they added this past summer, replacing Gallinari is essential, and whoever they chose to acquire needs to be a reliable multi-level scorer off the bench. Both Aldridge and Anthony fit that bill.

 

 

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