Cole Aldrich was drafted out of Kansas last June as a physical, workman-like center on to a team with an already deep frontcourt. Oklahoma City already had Nenad Krstic starting at the five and Nick Collison backing him up, while at the four Jeff Green starts and Serge Ibaka brings the blocks off the bench.
Aldrich was going to have a hard time finding minutes… but the preseason gods have smiled on him (if not others). Krstic had finger surgery and will miss most of camp, while Collison has a bone bruise on his knee and is resting.
Now Aldrich — who was brought in as a long-term project not a guy expected to get a lot of run this season — is getting a chance to carve out his spot, as coach Scott Brooks to the Oklahoman.
“I don’t know the impact he will make,” Brooks said, “but I like what he’s about. And he plays. He bangs.”
Okay… maybe not a ringing endorsement there. Maybe we don’t put Aldrich on our fantasy teams this year.
He was never brought in to score anyway. The Thunder needed something every team needs — a big body who can defend the rim and rebound. Notice that the two teams in the finals last year had one of those guys (Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins). With guards able to penetrate without being touched on the perimeter now, every team needs a presence in the paint to stop the parade of layups.
Aldrich may be that guy in Oklahoma City. Or more accurately, maybe he can develop into that guy. But starting now he’s getting the chance to earn some minutes when the games matter. Ibaka is starting at center this preseason but Aldrich will get plenty of run. We’ll see what he can do with it.