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2016 Clippers Exit Interviews: Thank God for Cole

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Admit it. You never thought the words "they need to put Cole Aldrich back in" would leave your lips this season. But Doc's least heralded move of the summer turned out to be his savviest.

Name: Cole David Aldrich.

Common Aliases Among Clipper Fans: "Wilt But Better"; "Reggie Evans 2.0"; "That cannot be the same Cole Aldrich"; "Pablo's Only Friend".

Age: 27

Years in NBA: 6.

2015-16 NBA Salary: Veteran's minimum of $1,100,602.  Does not include dental.

Cole Tooth

Future Contract Status: Player option for $1,227,300. Will almost certainly decline.

Key Stats:

  • Top-Line: 13.3 minutes per game in 60 games played; 5.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.1 BPG. 59.6% FG%.
  • Per 36: 14.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.1 blocks.
  • 1 Utah Jazz season needlessly ruined.

Summary: It was supposed to be Smoove. When Doc inked Josh Smith to a bargain-bin veteran's minimum last summer, many thought the Clippers had finally solved a perpetual roster hole that had vexed the team for years--the reliable backup big.

While a three-and-d wing will forever be Doc's white whale, the absence of a competent, rim-protecting big that could spell DeAndre during foul-trouble (or protracted bouts of hack-a-DeAndre) noticeably haunted the Clippers' rotations each of the past two seasons. With all due respect to Big Baby, Doc's previous efforts to plug the big-man gap had not worked out so well. As a result of past front-office failings, the names "Byron" and "Spencer" have been permanently removed from the "Book of Acceptable Clipper Fan Baby Names", joining Donald, Elton, and of course...

When a surly Smoove quickly proved incapable or unwilling to fill the Clippers' longstanding big-man void, Doc turned to Aldrich, a six-year NBA journeyman from Kansas best known for being a six-year NBA journeyman from Kansas.

To the surprise of many, Aldrich was almost everything Smoove was supposed to be. A defensive anchor to the second unit and a force on the offensive and defensive glass. A surprisingly effective pick and roll option that could swing a game's momentum by outplaying and outhustling second-stringers. After the departures of Smith and Lance Stephenson, Aldrich was the primary stabilizing force behind a bench unit that finally earned some trust from Doc and the fan base.

Aldirch now ranks right behind Austin Rivers on the "I can't believe THAT guy is killing us" Clipper All-Stars.

Strengths: The top-line numbers don't do Cole justice, especially when it comes to the boards. Among true backup centers who averaged at least 10 minutes per game, Aldrich trailed only Enes Kanter and Joakim Noah in the percentage of total rebounds a player obtains while on the court (Kanter's not a center, but he is a force on the boards so it just serves to further validate Cole's awesomeness). Aldrich was also a defensive menace, ranking sixth in defensive rating among true backup centers.

Offensively Cole proved a capable finisher at the rim, especially when paired with the genetically deferential Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni and Cole enjoyed a unique pick and roll chemistry that continually surprised opponents. I doubt the question "How do we guard the Prigioni-Aldrich pick and roll?" ever made it's way to a pre-game film session.

Weaknesses: None known to man. Did Kareem ever photobomb with such effortless grace?

Future as a Clipper: As Lucas has detailed, Cole very well may have played himself out of a Clipper uniform next season. I'm tired of reading sentences that start "with the cap going up", but with the cap going up, Aldrich will be able to parlay his strong 2016 campaign into a multi-year deal that could likely fetch him at least $5 million annually.

That would mean the Clippers would have to use their mid-level exception to sign Cole, and even then would likely be asking him to take a discount. It will take a series of emotionally powerful appeals to Cole's sense of loyalty to stay. Read the emojis.

Best Moment of the Year: Cole shows David Robinson who the real MVP is.

via GIPHY

Sorry, I get mixed up between Cole and Dream all the time. Here's Cole going for 21 and 18 and killing Jazz fans will to live.

As always a big thanks to Clipper Nation's artist-in-residence Connor Carroll for the Mount Rushmore assist.