OKC Thunder: Is Cole Aldrich ready?

Thunder big man Cole Aldrich, a Kansas product who was the 11th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, had an uneventful time in Orlando. However, Aldrich says he got better every day, and teammate Nick Collison says Aldrich is ready to play.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: July 15, 2012 at 11:48 pm •  Published: July 16, 2012
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— If you believe what you hear, Cole Aldrich is ready.

“He's changed his habits,” said Nick Collison. “He's really a pro now.”

But if you take what you see to the bank, the Thunder's third-year center seems to have quite a ways to go before emerging into the interior defender Oklahoma City projected him to be when the franchise traded up to get the 11th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Aldrich had a rather uneventful trip to Orlando with the Thunder's summer league team. Despite being the highest draft pick on the Thunder's summer league roster, the team's projected second-string center next year and OKC's third most experienced player in Orlando, Aldrich did little to stand out.

Appearing in four of the team's five games, Aldrich averaged five points and 6.5 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. Aldrich's scoring average tied him for eighth on the team with an undrafted guard out of UT-Arlington named Marquez Haynes. Perhaps a small sign of Aldrich's struggles was seen in his turnover tally. With eight, Aldrich had more turnovers than blocked shots, assists and steals combined (seven).

But Aldrich believes he got better every day in Orlando.

“I definitely think so,” he said. “That first game wasn't great. You come out and it's basically going from zero to 60. I haven't played in two years and then you go out and play 32 minutes. So it's an adjustment, and I made those adjustments as we went on and that's all you can do.”

Aldrich's game has never been about putting up eye-popping stats. And in summer league, especially, stats can be deceiving. But for four games, Aldrich had trouble doing even the small things that he is supposed to supply.

He had difficulty corralling the ball, from either passes or rebounds. He couldn't finish consistently on offense. He set countless illegal screens, which were the source of the majority of his turnovers. And he had a hard time keeping himself between his man and the rim.

At times, it looked like Aldrich had no desire to be in Orlando. But he insisted that the time spent here will help him next year.

“It was good,” Aldrich said of his first summer league experience. “It's always good to get out on the court, to learn, to go through those things that you need to learn. I think for me to be in the rotation and be successful with our team next year, those minutes were great. I'm going to learn from them.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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