Wednesday September 14th, 2016

Never underestimate the composite value of a consistent shot creator who plays effective team defense. There are players ranked behind Aldridge on this list who are independently better at offense or defense. Where he distinguishes himself is in conceding so little: Aldridge is a first-option scorer who rebounds well, holds up defensively, and maximizes his possessions by avoiding turnovers. He can’t really be exploited or attacked in any consistent way and his game—by virtue of the fact that he already shoots and makes so many difficult, mid-range shots—isn’t particularly vulnerable to scheming. That immutability matters. Every team in the NBA is a blend of variables that players and coaches do their best to account for. To have a stabilizing certainty in the middle of everything makes the entire process simpler. Aldridge grants that, and in the process alleviates lesser offensive players from overstretch. The fact that he moves and contests well defensively—even if not well enough to anchor a defense himself—keeps possessions from falling apart. It’s not just Aldridge’s production that stabilizes a team but the very way that he operates. San Antonio will lean on that quality as it makes sense of a present and future without Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard is San Antonio’s best player. But it’s Aldridge who offers the groundwork for a franchise’s redefinition and helps stabilize the transition from one era to the next. (Last year: No. 12)

+ Game suited for either isolation or more fluid ball/player movement
+ Contributor to a historically great team defense last season
Has good size but offers flimsy rim protection
Not always a positive cultural influence

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.