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Breaking down Santi Aldama's FIBA performance
Santi Aldama had an encouraging performance in the FIBA World Cup, a span of games that illustrated the enhancement of his skillset. Could it lead to another leap?
Jaren Jackson Jr. wasn’t the only Memphis Grizzlies player to suit up in FIBA action. Santi Aldama played for the Spanish International team, an opportunity that could help foster further progress in his fascinating developmental arc over his first 2 NBA seasons.
Aldama came off the bench for Spain, playing a tertiary role behind Juancho and Willy Hernangomez. However, he made the most of his opportunities, serving as the main scoring option in the second unit — and doing so with tremendous efficiency.
Aldama averaged 11.2 points with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 64.1 in 19.6 minutes per game through 5 contests.
vs. Cote D’ivoire: 23 minutes, 8 points, 2-6 from the field, 0-2 from 3, 4-4 from the line, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 turnovers
vs. Brazil: 22 minutes, 15 points, 3-5 from the field, 1-3 from 3, 8-9 from the line, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 steal
vs. Iran: 20 minutes, 11 points, 5-8 from the field, 0-2 from 3, 1-1 from the line, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 blocks, 1 steal
vs. Latvia: 8 minutes, 2 points, 0-1 from the field, 2-2 from the line, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers
vs. Canada: 25 minutes, 20 points, 8-12 from the field, 4-7 from 3, 2 rebounds
Though Team Spain didn’t come away with any medals this time around, you have to feel optimistic about the solid play from Santi Aldama into a big year 3.
Santi Aldama’s offensive efficiency stood out the most in his performance. He showcased great poise and aggression in drives and cuts, whether it was from attacking a closeout or off the roll. Though he doesn’t possess an array of ball-handling moves, his fluidity allows him to shift through the lane, and his size makes him a tough contest at the basket.
Another positive indicator from Aldama’s FIBA performance was his shooting confidence. His percentage doesn’t pop off the page — 35.7%, 5-14 — but he let it fly from deep without hesitation. There was little concern on the defender around him on his jumper either. It paid off in his big-time performance against Canada where he hit 4 of his 7 three’s. As Aldama builds a track record of being an outside shooting threat, it’ll only open up more avenues for him to attack closeouts and create offense off the drive.
Aldama’s offensive weakpoint came down to his assist-to-turnover ratio. Not to dissect it down to just a specific number, but it does highlight a big area of improvement at this stage of his development. Aldama has sauce on his passes, and the combination of passing talent and reading the floor sells me on his playmaking potential. He can execute the difficult passes just as easy as he can serve as a connector to make the extra pass to the weak-side corner.
His turnovers resulted from committing to the pass once he pulled his dribble, but some of them resulted from losing the ball once the defender imposed some sort of physicality. Adding more strength has been a focus for Aldama, and it could help him withstand contact from tight defenders or ones coming to help on his drives.
Overall, it’s easy to be encouraged by Aldama’s offense. There wasn’t anything new to the bag, but his extra dose of confidence showed he’s ready for a larger role this upcoming season.
Santi Aldama’s defense was more of a mixed bag.
He continued to be a positive factor on the interior, as he uses his size to create a formidable contest on shots around the rim — even resulting in some emphatic blocks. He also demonstrated great verticality on his contests as well, as he didn’t have a single game with multiple fouls. It allows him to be a quality interior defender, whether it’s from the post or from roaming.
Where Aldama struggled is defending the perimeter. He’s often caught defending too upright, which limits his mobility defending in space — most often reflected in closeout or switching situations. He did solid against team Canada, even though they deployed 3 big wings to serve as interchangeable 2-4’s, as he absorbed contact well on drives. However, to hang around the perimeter defensively — whether it’s with assignments or switches — he’ll need to find a way to improve his lateral quickness.
Nonetheless, his perimeter defense still stood out as his most glaring weakness, which is something to monitor going forward as he builds more evidence towards positional definition. However, his interior defense remains an encouraging sign within his defensive potential.
It’s easy to be encouraged about Santi Aldama’s performance in the World Cup. While Aldama didn’t dominate the competition, it was nice to see him be a steady, reliable option for a veteran Spanish team. His finesse style of play at his size makes him a remarkable frontcourt option for Spain, as he showed value as an outside shooter and interior scorer. He’s not only setting himself up for another leap in his 3rd season, but he could also rise to become a featured option for Team Spain for the next several years.
Continued progression as an offensive weapon and as a versatile defender will be important to monitor as a larger role ensues in the coming soon.
Santi Aldama’s play the past few weeks lays the groundwork for him to be a intriguing wrinkle in the Grizzlies’ plans this season.
More to come on Santi’s outlook for year 3.
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