After being out of the rotation for the opening portion of the season, Cole Aldrich replaced Josh Smith as the backup center and went OFF. The regression has hit hard in recent weeks, but he's still been solid, and his "low" has met expectations--a big, minimum-salary guy who is physical, gets rebounds, and does a decent job around the basket on both ends. Aldrich is averaging 5.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, .9 assists, .7 blocks, and .6 steals per game in 11.5 minutes. He's appeared in 31 contests, with per-36 averages of 16.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 2.2 steals (he's also averaging 6.9 fouls per 36 minutes, but shhhhhhh).
Let's see how our writers graded Cole mid-season:
Robert Flom: B. Cole has performed above my expectations on the whole, especially during the first couple weeks he got consistent minutes. While he has fallen off since, he has still been more valuable than I thought he would be, and has really helped to stabilize the bench unit. He isn't exciting or flashy, nor will he ever be mistaken for even close to starter quality, but for a bench big there is a lot worse.
Larson Ishii: B. Cole has performed well in his role as the back up center. Him and Pablo have a terrific chemistry, and their middle pick and roll provides a nice skeletal structure to the second unit. I have been pleasantly surprised by Cole's defense and passing, two areas of his game I severely underestimated. He isn't a great finisher, especially not dunking, and can't really do anything besides set screens and dive, which has started to be solved my opposing defenses. Still I thought Cole was a marginal player when signed this summer and he's proven me wrong as a contributor.
Lucas Hann: B+. The Clippers' backup center has to be one of their most pleasant surprises this year. He's come into his own in this role, and the fact that he's such a drop off from DeAndre Jordan says more about DJ than it does about Cole. His production has been great at times (especially when filling in for DJ in two games as a starter) and poor at times, but when he's bad he tends to be somewhat invisible rather than being a big negative. I still think that the Clippers would be better equipped long-term with a more versatile third big and Cole in a fourth big role where he can use his body and fouls and isn't relied upon so much to be a big offensive threat.
Davey Bales: B. He came on strong once given the opportunity and Doc liked him so much that he promptly shipped Josh Smith out, but since then, Cole's play has regressed a bit. Other teams have caught on to the Cole-Prigioni pick and roll action and have stopped giving him wide open lanes to the bucket, which has (shocker) affected his scoring output. Not to mention the fact that I've never seen a borderline 7-footer with the rare ability to miss so many dunks. That said, he's been solid offensively, defensively, and on the boards with the second unit and he's been productive for a signing that many overlooked in the off-season. B seems to fit the bill - a nice return on a low-risk investment and a solid, yet unspectacular surprise.