We all know what LaMarcus Aldridge is capable of doing, but his new head coach thinks he's capable of doing even more.
Given how much the Portland Trail Blazers will depend on Aldridge for the foreseeable future, you'd certainly hope Terry Stotts can make the most of his best asset. The 27-year-old power forward has the size and skill to remain play an All-Star level for years to come, but could he be even better?
Could he play at a Dirk Nowitzki level?
Stotts seems to think so, and he explained why to Blazers Courtside (via Blazersedge's Ben Golliver):
I want to try almost everything that we did with Dirk, with LaMarcus, to get a comfort level. On the left block he's as good of a block player as there is in the league. A pick-and-pop shooter for a big man, he's almost on the same level as Dirk with mid-range. Dirk can take it out a little bit further, or at least he has. I'd like to expand his game a little bit.
The plans for Aldridge are nothing too exotic. Stotts will try to have him space the floor a bit more, perhaps taking the occasional three from the corner. He'd like him to work on scoring from different parts of the floor and in the context of different plays.
Aldridge won't be reinventing the wheel.
And he may never become quite so pure a shooter as Dirk. He may instead look more like Pau Gasol, a similarly effective mid-range player who's grown comfortable stepping out for that corner trey.
The good news is that Stotts will be pushing his roster from top to bottom, milking it for all it's worth. You don't want a new coach doing anything too crazy, but it's good to see him motivating his guys and thinking creatively.
The other good news is that Aldridge has consistently shown the ability and willingness to improve his game. After spending the last few years adding some strength and working on his post-game, he saw his effectiveness around the basket improve pretty dramatically last season.
That improvement had a lot to do with his first All-Star selection.
Given how naturally his mid-range game has come, the prospect of rounding it out a bit further doesn't seem especially daunting.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves with those Nowitzki comparisons.
Aldridge is a fine shooter to be sure. His high release point and ability to hit turnaround jumpers make his shots difficult to contest.
Whether he'll blossom into a remarkably crafty shooter who can score from anywhere on the floor is an altogether different proposition. The attempt to move in that direction makes a lot of sense, but it's not fair to expect Dirk-like results.
Besides, Aldridge is a unique commodity.
Though he could learn a few things from Nowitzki, he can also do things in the paint that Dirk never could. He's more explosive and far more adept at going up to get alley-oops, skills that might make you think twice about keeping him away from the basket for too long.
We also haven't seen Aldridge become the kind of postseason leader than Nowitzki's been with the Mavs for so long.
That certainly isn't Aldridge's fault—he hasn't had the opportunities. Nevertheless, Nowitzki's accomplishments when his team's season is on the line highlight just how far Stotts and his Blazers have to go.
The Mavericks are a nice blueprint, and there's no question Portland needs a new direction, preferably one with a record of success.
Replicating that success anytime soon won't be easy though, for Aldridge or any other Blazer.