More on Aldridge

I wrote this morning some thoughts on LaMarcus Aldridge.  A reader writes:

As for the salary Cap,it’s been blown.the only options the Rockets have the next two yrs is via trade or the Draft.

I should clarify.  My contention with theoretically paying Aldridge $16million does not stem from a desire to preserve space or from a fear of reaching some limit already not reached.  As the reader said, the cap has already been blown.  My contention with an Aldridge play pertains to salary allocation.  If we accept the premise that Les Alexander probably will not too greatly exceed the luxury tax threshold–if at all–(which I think is a very reasonable assumption), then we can envision a finite limit or threshold above which the Rockets will not exceed.  Having set this limit, our desire is in distributing available dollars in a manner which ensures the greatest utility or enjoyment.

For example, I love cake.  If I have $100, I could potentially spend all of it on cake.  But after a certain point of expenditures, I’m not really getting the same enjoyment out of the cake.  I’d derive more happiness spending some of the money on a new pair of pants or something.

While crude, that’s how I look at allocating the cap.  It is my opinion that in the modern collective bargaining era, the threshold of diminished returns is experienced after the second max-dollar offensive star.  That is to say, if you had no other max-dollar offensive stars, or just Harden, you’d derive full utility out of someone like LaMarcus Aldridge.  But if you already have Dwight Howard and James Harden on your roster, you’re not getting your full money’s worth.  The third guy isn’t getting enough touches to maximize his capabilities and justify what you’re paying him.  To extend the analogy, it’s like how stuffing your face with pie doesn’t taste as heavenly after the first few slices.

It is my belief that the most effective model of salary allocation is having two max players, followed by two players each earning in the $8million range (as the Rockets currently have.)  Those latter two players will still be able to produce at a rate respective to their salaries.  That’s not the case for a max-dollar player.  The more that usage% dips, the less bang you’re getting for your buck, and that’s inevitably the case for a third option.

One might point to the Celtics, but I’d counter that they were a unique blend of talents who complemented each other’s abilities.  Pierce handled the ball, Allen came off screens, and Garnett was the greatest team defender since Bill Russell.  It fit.  On the other hand, while we like to think of Dwight Howard as the “just rebound and defend” Garnett-type Kobe wanted him to be, the reality is that he’s going to want his fair share of touches in the post.  And of course there’s Harden.  That would leave Aldridge just cleaning up the leftovers, from the midrange.  I think there’s better ways to use $16million.  And there are cheaper ways to space the floor.

Again, it’s not about saving room.  It’s about getting the highest rate of production out of the money you’re spending.  I don’t think having three offensive stars allows that.


An interesting discussion arose in the wake of the Heat’s second championship in three years.  Did it validate the three star model or did their performance serve as an indictment?  On the one hand, they had three stars…and they won.  On the other hand, they had the greatest player of his generation–potentially of all-time–at the peak of his career, and they still barely won.  If those other two guys were earning their pay, shouldn’t the Heat, in theory, have cruised past everyone on their way to the championship?  Bosh came up huge in that last game, but overall, wouldn’t they have looked better with Asik and someone else making $8million?

A reader writes:

Also the 3-23 jumper isn’t going anywhere that’s too much wasted space to just completely ignore if you have guys that shoot well from there then you let them take the shots.

I should be clear.  I’m not against midrange shots nor do I think Morey is, not to the point of “completely ignoring” them.  But what I do think is that they’re secondary options.  It’s ok if you have someone like Patrick Patterson, on a rookie deal, taking them; it’s ok if you have Marc Gasol, who does so much of everything else, taking them.  But paying someone a huge chunk of your cap to pretty much only take midrange jumpers is something I don’t think Daryl Morey would do.  (Aldridge led the league in midrange jumpers.)

View this discussion from the forum.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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