would be much appreciated. It is about LaMarcus Aldridge
From the moment a player walks on the NBA court for the first time, his game is being closely critiqued. Can he put the ball on the floor? Does he have a NBA-caliber jumper? Is he athletic and tall enough for his position? Is he a leader with a high basketball IQ? Does he take pride on the defensive end of the court? Can he be relied upon with the pressure on?
The beauty is that in time, his play on the court largely answers all of these questions; his weaknesses, his strengths, his upside and the chances he reaches it. The tough part for every player, then, becomes breaking out of that box, changing expectations and reestablishing himself with what one might call a new "basketball DNA."
Already in this young NBA season, we're seeing some established players whose games are changing right before our very eyes -- for better or worse. Today, let's examine five of those players and see how our expectations of them should change.
Trend: Playing small, not big
In the Trail Blazers' first five games, the inside-outside presence of their All-Star power forward has been less inside and more outside, which Jason Quick of The Oregonian believes is a trend Aldridge must reverse in order for Portland to play at its best. That's especially true considering the lack of other frontcourt options on the Blazers, who are relying on young journeyman J.J. Hickson and rookie Meyers Leonard to man the center position.
As recently as two seasons ago, Aldridge attempted 10 shots a game inside of 10 feet and, not surprisingly, he notched a career-best 21.8 points a game that season. But that number fell to 7.7 shots inside of 10 feet last season, and it continues to fall (5.4) in the early going this year.
How big of a problem is it? Consider this for a moment: in none of Aldridge's first six NBA seasons has he taken, on average, more than 6.4 shots a game outside of 15 feet away from the basket. This year, 11.6 shots a game are coming from 16 feet and out, hurting his shooting percentage (43.6) and preventing him from getting to the free throw line (3.0 attempts a game), where he's a career 77.8 percent shooter. The guy is transforming from a post presence with range to a glorified wing shooter right in front of our eyes. That could be a bad thing for the Blazers.
Trend: Shooting lots of midrange jumpers … and making them
Noah averaging 15 points a game? Are you kidding me? While this number is largely the result of the absence of Derrick Rose and the need for someone to pick up the scoring slack, Noah's strong offensive start to the season has people wondering if he's been underestimated as a scorer all these years.
What's clear is that Noah has expanded his game considerably over the past year or so, going from one of the worst midrange jump-shooters in the game early in his career to a confident one who can hang with the very best.
Synergy Sports Technology shows just how far he has come. Noah took 20 shots from between 17 feet and 3-point range as a rookie in 2007-08, and the resulting 0.3 points per play at that range put him in the 1 percentile among all NBA players. A year later, he seemingly learned his lesson, taking all of three shots from that distance in 80 games. Fast-forward to 2011-12, and while the spot-up still made up just 8.4 percent of his shot attempts, Noah became one of the very best in the league from that particular distance; his 0.982 points per play placed him No. 21 in the NBA, one spot ahead of Kevin Durant.
The form is still funky, but hey, at least the ball's going in.
Trend: Shooting more 3-pointers
For years in Utah, Millsap was an underappreciated sidekick in the Jazz's frontcourt to Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur. More recently, he has become more of a focal point next to Al Jefferson and earned a reputation as a versatile and efficient power forward in this league.
Though a capable perimeter shooter, the 3-pointer has never been a big part of his game. In his first four NBA seasons (322 games), the Louisiana Tech product attempted only 20 3-pointers and, worse yet, made only two. His 3-point attempts rose to 0.3 per game in 2010-11 and last season he attempted one every other game.
This season, that number continues to rise, and so far the results have been good. Millsap is 5-for-8 from 3-point land through seven games, moving out to the perimeter more as Jefferson and young lottery picks Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors get their opportunities in the paint. From a fantasy perspective, this might not have huge impact, but it can be a nice bonus. Millsap has always been a guy capable of providing points, rebounds, steals and a high field goal percentage, and now he can also help a little bit from 3-point land, even if it brings down his shooting percentage a bit.
Trend: Scoring like a No. 1 option
In Mayo's one season of college ball at USC, he played like someone who could not only score, but also make those around him better. But that never materialized in four seasons in Memphis, and by the latter part of his time with the Grizzlies he'd largely become a standstill 3-point shooter coming off the bench.
When Dallas was the surprise team that jumped in late and signed Mayo in the offseason, it did so with the thought that there was still a star burning inside the 25-year-old. The Mavericks have challenged him to become the player he was expected to be, and in the early going Mayo has had the green light to shoot and score however possible.
So far, the Mavs look very wise, and the $4 million deal looks like a huge bargain. Mayo's numbers are up across the board, from his assist rate (3.8 per 40 minutes) and rebound rate (5 per 40 minutes) to his bread and butter -- the 3-pointer. Mayo is firing up 3s at a career-high clip (8.6 per 40 minutes) and, leaning on the experience from his role with the Grizz, shooting an amazing 60.5 percent from behind the arc. These numbers certainly won't last over the course of the season, but with the Mavs giving Mayo big minutes and the keys to the offense, he could very well lead the NBA in 3-pointers made this season.
Randy Foye | SG | Utah Jazz
Trend: Shooting more 3-pointers
It took a while, but over the past couple of seasons Foye finally started to settle into a nice little niche in this league as a 3-point specialist.
Foye always averaged four to five 3s per 40 minutes in his four years in Minnesota and Washington, but a move to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2010 changed the course of his career. He fired off 5.6 treys per 40 minutes in his first year in L.A., and that number rose to 7.8 last season.
Now on a Utah team that lacks 3-point threats, Foye is finding he and Mo Williams to be the team's primary weapons from distance, and the numbers bear it out. Through his first six games with the Jazz, Foye is shooting 9.5 3s per 40 minutes, and connecting a career-best 43.2 percent of the time. If you're in need of a 3-point specialist on your fantasy roster, Foye could be worth considering; he is a tad more versatile than Steve Novak and is playing more minutes than the Knicks' sharpshooter at this time.