After two and a half seasons spent floundering at the end of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets bench, former Kansas Jayhawk big man Cole Aldrich made his way to the California capital in a blockbuster trade that sent Thomas Robinson to the Rockets during this past seasons trade deadline. It was a move that shocked many in the NBA and Aldrich was considered little more than a piece of change in the deal, but the Burnsville native was finally given NBA floor time and despite only playing in fifteen games for the Kings, Aldrich made the most of his opportunity. Here is his season review:
Thought to be just a throw-in in the Kings midseason trade with Houston, Cole Aldrich actually earned some bursts of playing time in Keith Smart‘s convoluted rotation. The results were surprisingly decent. On the surface, Aldrich’s deficiencies are quite easy to see. He’s extremely slow footed and lacks much of an offensive game outside of 5 feet. But to his credit, Aldrich always played within himself. The 7-footer carved out a role by simply providing size. He set strong screens and proved to be a solid garbage man, mopping up loose balls underneath and finishing with efficiency. Defensively, Aldrich was an adequate shot blocker and ate up space, something that could not be said of other reserve big men on the roster. With a roster shakeup a true possibility and Aldrich’s impending free agency, a return to the Kings roster might be a stretch. But Sacramento could certainly do worse, and having a 7-footer like Aldrich at the end of the bench is an asset in certain matchups.
When Cole Aldrich was included among the February 20, 2013 trade package from Houston, it took awhile to assess him and former Houston Rocket players, Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas. Initially, it was not a popular trade, due to the trading away of first round pick Thomas Robinson, who was expected to develop into a very good player at some future time.
Critics soon quieted their displeasure, as it became almost immediately apparent the Kings had improved following the trade, by winning more games. It was believed Patterson was a large part of the improvement, and then Douglas showed he also brought something to the team. Yet, it was unclear what Aldrich brought, as he was somewhat of an unknown, not having logged very many minutes with his former teams.
Aldrich was a selected 11th in first round in the 2010 NBA Draft. He played two seasons with Oklahoma, where was assigned to the D-League three times. In October 2012, he was traded to the Houston Rockets, along with other teammates, including James Harden. Following his trade to Sacramento, Aldrich’s playing time increased to 11.7 minutes per game, averaging 3.3 points and 4.2 total rebounds per game. (Stats come from basketball reference.com) On a 36 minute basis, he averages 10.4 rebounds, 10.3 points, and 2.9 blocks.
Although a substantial amount of his playing time in Sacramento has come after the outcome of the game has already been decided, he has made the most of those minutes to showcase his passion and genuinely seems appreciative of his opportunity to play. While his overall impact may be limited, his ability to score efficiently, rebound, and block shots make him a worthwhile player to use in situational substitutions off the bench. He still remains a bit of an unknown in terms of his potential. He was drafted high, so there may be more to see from him.
I remember watching Cole back at Kansas and being intrigued with the big man. However, being the Kings had such a high pick in 2010, he quickly fell off of my personal radar as I began to focus on talents like DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors and Greg Monroe to fill our big man void.
Had Aldrich stayed in New Orleans, where he was originally drafted, his career may have turned out vastly different but a draft day trade sent Aldrich to the up and coming OKC Thunder where he was quickly buried on the bench behind guys like Kendrick Perkins and Omer Asik in Houston last year.
Enter Sacramento, who outside of DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, really lacked any type of consistent big man rotation. Few expected much out of Aldrich – partly due to his lack of floor time in his previous pit stops, partly because of Keith Smart’s musical chair rotation but Aldrich did his best to prove all of the doubters wrong.
It was still a merry-go-round of minutes in Sacramento, but when Aldrich saw the floor – he produced. In addition to relatively respectable defense (he did provide a plus defensive win share), Aldrich put up quality numbers. In games where he played over 20 minutes, Aldrich (despite a small sample size) averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds on 72% shooting. Granted, again, we’re talking a very small sample size but Aldrich was producing in limited minutes as well.
It’s tough to get much of a read on a player who only suits up a handful of times and where minutes are relatively spastic, but there’s no doubt Aldrich took advantage of his short stay and the few minutes available in Sacramento.
Where he goes from here remains to be seen. With an ownership change on the horizon and Cole being a free agent, a return to Sacramento is up in the air but I’d more than welcome the former Jayhawk back.