Better Know a Prospect: Cole Aldrich, C - Kansas

Cole Aldrich is an effective post player who plays with high intensity and grabs tons of rebounds. He played for three years at Kansas, where he distinguished himself as a presence in the post for some outstanding teams in high-pressure situations. His skill set would be a particularly good fit for the Hornets, since his strengths are rebounding, defense, and pick and roll offense. He has a rather low ceiling, though. He regressed moderately from his Sophomore to Junior seasons, leading most scouts to assume that he won't be able to improve much at the next level. The big problem is that he will very likely be drafted before the 11th pick. His rebounding is valuable and many insiders seem to suggest that the Jazz like him a lot. He'd be a great value if he fell to the Hornets.

Bio: Aldrich was born and raised in Bloomington, Minnesota, pretty much the quintessential midwest town. It's even home to the Mall of America. He attended Bloomington Jefferson High School, where in his Senior season he averaged an absurd 22 points and 17 rebounds, leading his team to the state quarterfinals en route to State Player of the Year honors. He signed to play for Bill Self at Kansas, where he had a fantastic Freshman season followed up by a spectacular Sophomore season. He has been recognized for hard work off the court, winning a kind of sketchy strength and conditioning award as well as much less sketchy Academic All-American honors. However, he decided to return to school for his Junior season, where he failed to improve upon his Sophomore season and actually returned lower totals for rebounding and points.

Stats: The big stat that jumps out for Aldrich is rebounds - he's a beast on the offensive and defensive glass, averaging 14.7 rebounds per forty minutes, pace adjusted (REB/40p). Rebounding skills translate very well to the pro game. We can say with near certainty that Aldrich would be an outstanding rebounder in the NBA, and that kind of certainty is tough to find in the draft. He finds a way to get to the free throw line (0.60 FGA/FTA) and knocks down 68% of his attempts from the line. That skill might not translate as well - in the pros, defenders will be bigger and more skilled, meaning his ability to get to the line will be greatly diminished, especially since Aldrich doesn't have polished post moves.

You can certainly find red flags on his stat sheet. For one thing, Aldrich turns the ball over too much (2.2 TO/40p). More troubling, though, is his regression from his Sophomore year. He decreased from 19.9 PTS/40p down to 16.2 and his two point field goal percentage dropped from 59.8% to 56.2%. Aldrich was vastly less efficient in his Junior year than in his Sophomore year. Adding to the concern is the drop in his usage rate - it sank from 21.5% of possessions to 20.5%. For one thing, Aldrich was always a role player on offense at Kansas. For another, he was less efficient while getting the ball less in his Junior season. It's reasonable to think that his Sophomore season might have been his ceiling.

Skills: Aldrich is a ferocious rebounder and a tenacious defender - that much is for certain. His offensive game, though, leaves much to be desired. His post moves are rudimentary at best, with nothing more than a mediocre spin move and an ineffective drop step in his repertoire. He has a hard time establishing position and can't finish with his left hand. He has limited shooting range and very questionable shooting form. In short, he needs shots to be created for him by guards and doesn't project to be much more than a role player. However, he's excellent in pick and roll situations, setting outstanding screens, moving well to the basket, and finishing on the run with his big frame and 7'4" wingspan

Overall: Some might question drafting a player with this little upside, but it's important to remember that Aldrich has very little downside. You know you'll get a great defender and rebounder who can play a bit of offense, and you almost certainly won't get a bust. He fits the needs of the Hornets very well, since they already have a big man who can shoot and score (West), but lack post defense and rebounding. Plus, if there's any guard in the league that can create looks for Aldrich, it's Chris Paul. The big downside is that with the hiring of Monty Williams, I'd like to see the Hornets pick a player with a lot of upside that Monty can mold into a star, since player development appears to be Monty's calling card. But if Aldrich falls to the 11th spot, I would be excited to see the Hornets pick him.

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