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2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Santi Aldama

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Who is this dude?

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NCAA Basketball: Patriot League Conference Championship- Loyola-Maryland vs Colgate Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

SANTI ALDAMA, F/C LOYOLA-MARYLAND

•7’0, 215 lbs (7’2 wingspan), 20 years old, from Las Palmas SPAIN

•Two Seasons (27 games) at Loyola-Maryland 33.3 minutes per game, 19.0 points per game on 49.5 FG% (30.6 FG3% & 68.6 FT%) 9.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game, 1.7 Blocks per game, 1.0 steals per game

• STATS OF STRENGTH 21.2 points per game (2020-21 season), (10.0 rebounds per game) , (1.7 blocks per game Win shares per game 3.8), (2.2 assists per game), (37% FG3% 2020-21), (51.3 FG% 2020-21), (60.6 2P%) (33.3 minutes per game) (57.4 eFG%) (31.5% Usage Rate),

• STATS TO IMPROVE- Career 30.6 FG3%, turnovers 3.0 per game, 63.9 Free Throw% per game

•AWARDS & ACCOLADES- One of two players in NCAA Division l to average at least 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in 2020-21

-2020-21 All-Patriot League First Team Selection.

-2019-20 Patriot League All-Rookie Selection

-MVP of the 2019 FIBA U-18 European Championship for gold medalist Spain (18.0 ppg, 7.6rpg, 2.29bpg).

-Member of Spain’s Junior National Team since he was 14

-Part of the 2018 Basketball without borders Europe Camp in Serbia

Santi Aldama is easily THE biggest mystery of the 2021 NBA Draft. Santi is also very thin in terms of his frame, so many wonder can he keep up with the big men in the NBA. NBA big men should also be worried about keeping up with Aldama, as he has a full array of skill and feel for the game. Some are skeptical of the fact he only played 27 college games in his two seasons but context matters. He had knee issues his freshman season that required surgeries and yet he still had a great freshman campaign. His sophomore season he was healthy and played all season.

However, due to the pandemic The Patriot League only played an inner conference schedule and thus the shortage of games. Yet in still he has shown all-around potential to become good at literally everything from scoring, passing, shooting, rebounding, shot creation, basketball IQ, defensive switching, rim protection down to even his flair in the air catching lobs and finishing at the basket.

What He Does Well

Santi Aldama is a dream in terms of his combination of decent athleticism, size, skill, versatility and feel for the game. Oh, and did I mention production? Santi understood the mission in the Patriot League and had a pretty dominant career in his two seasons at Loyola Maryland. He was a consistent star on the court in terms of production, exciting highlights and the stat sheet.

Aldama has the ball handling, on ball shot creation, playmaking, fluidity and shooting ability of a guard. He’s a rare breed who rebounds very well despite his thin frame. This means he doesn’t mind banging and giving maximum effort in the paint, considering how far he mainly played away from the rim. He very often takes the defensive rebound coast to coast and has the noodles to make quick, yet smart decisions with the ball on the fly. His ability to pull up and shoot with plenty of range, makes him a threat anywhere past half court and in anyway. He does a great job of identifying openings all over the court and even how to create angles to score at the rim.

When finishing at the rim, Santi contorts his body in a way rarely seen by one with his length. He has incredible touch and though he can improve more with his left, he has shown the ability to activate his acrobat badge with either hand. He is crafty maneuvering and shows a certain level of comfort and understanding in terms of scoring.

He operated very well in transition on and off ball. Fluid athlete and gives you plenty of options with his shooting and his flashes of ability to get to the rim as a one man fast break. Long wingspan also gives him more of an advantage in transition against what will usually be shorter defenders who’ll keep up with him even at the pro level.

-Excellent passer with strong playmaker potential despite his size. Mostly used as a primary on ball playmaker and go to scorer at Loyola-Maryland as well as his time in Spain so producing in high volume, under pressure is something he’s already familiar with. He was the center of the offense and averaged nearly three assists per game this past season with very little talent around him to make plays for. Despite his frequency on ball and being the main focal point of every opponent’s game plan, Santi still shot a 56.7 TS% for his college career with a 55.2% eFG%. He also had a 59% 2PA% which validates his flair for smooth scoring finishes. He also boasted a 15.0% advanced assist percentage so he played a solid part in the success of his teammates scoring as well.

He is a proven great rebounder and that maybe an understatement. He averaged 10.2 rebounds per game this past season which is an impressive feat in itself. Now factor in that Santi did this while operating as the “Stretch-Playmaker” whom the offense went through from outside in. This gives you an idea of his level of activity, effort and awareness. It also proves his 28 PER wasn’t just a result of him playing in the lowly ranked Patriot League.

He’s a solid rim protector despite his thin frame. Averaged 1.7 blocks per game so he showed he is willing to get in there and mix it up. Pretty agile for his size and uses his fluidity to switch and shuffle well using his hips and length to slow down perimeter guys on the attack.

Santi averaged 1.0 steals per game. Very good at reading passing lanes and understanding the offensive attack. Kept his length active on defense which lead to many intercepting opportunities and a 94.2 Defensive rating on a team that was far from a defensive juggernaut to inflate his defensive efficiency.

WHERE HE CAN IMPROVE

Obviously at almost 7’0 215 pounds he needs to add a bit of muscle which he shouldn’t have a problem doing in the Mecca of barbeque and hot wings. Aldama is very thin and this may have attributed to the knee injuries he suffered his freshman season that limited him to only 10 games. Expect him to get pushed around early and often. Santi will face much bigger and physical competition at the next level. His lack of size may have also been why he didn’t work in the paint even more often offensively, although it was more so due to his role as the on ball scorer and playmaker of the offense.

Aldama is a solid, fluid athlete yet he isn’t the most explosive player. Where he does lack in explosion could keep him from becoming an elite rim protector but make no mistake about it, he is already a solid rim protector who chases down blocks and does well providing weak side help.

Turnovers were maybe too frequent, even in comparison to his negative assist/turnovers ratio but again context matters. He usually had the ball in his hands as a playmaker. He didn’t have much help on that roster to take some of the defensive focus off of him and his attempts to create offense. He can improve his ball handling and pass accuracy even more but that’s not the main reason for his somewhat inflated turnover rate. Santi is a very sound decision maker who will benefit from being around better passing options.

Santi’s three-point shooting can certainly stand more improvement as he shot only 30% from deep for his college career. However he improved from 21.7% to 37% over the course of his freshman through sophomore seasons. Some say his shot has a hitch like a flick of the wrist to release. Others will argue he has nearly perfect shooting mechanics along with a smooth stroke and release. His shooting percentages won’t necessarily sway you either way but again context matters when you consider his improvement over years one and two. Free throw shooting is also seen as foreshadowing of one’s shooting, so his FT% indicates he should be at least a decent shooter at the next level.

Some say he plays a slow brand of basketball that may be better suited for European leagues. Again, context matters, because Loyola-Maryland Head coach Tavaras Hardy chose to run a very slow methodical offense that wasn’t often half court oriented with a lot of allowing the offense to develop due to the lack of high flyers. This resulted in a slower version of Santi’s game often on display. That said, he showed plenty of ability to score from everywhere, making plays difficult to defend in transition. He has the quick decision making, confidence, skill, feel for the game and fluidity to be productive in a much more fast pace setting.

He can use the strength training and conditioning program afforded by the NBA to improve his body, add more agility and explosion.

The Fit

Santi Aldama is viewed as a position-less big man with ample skill and feel. He also has some defensive versatility though he may never be Anthony Davis on that end of the court. That said theoretically he could fit well in the front court with Jaren Jackson Jr, Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke and Steven Adams if he stays.

Some will say he’s too thin and thus not nearly physical enough to play next to an already heavily perimeter oriented JJJ who is often criticized for his lack of physicality himself. However, despite his “bird chest” Santi doesn’t mind mixing it up inside as he showed averaging 10 rebounds per game in the Patriot League. So in theory Santi should compliment Jaren fairly well as the rebounder JJJ may never become.

He also makes sound decisions on nothing ends so he doesn’t have issues staying on the floor, another thing JJJ still struggles with. Santi is very unselfish, so when Jaren is open outside Santi won’t mind kicking him the ball or dumping it off to Ja Morant and others when using his playmaking skills to attack the rim.

Santi doesn’t mind sliding over to play either big man position which makes pairing him with our other undersized front court players not to much of an issue.

The Verdict

Critiques are quick to point out that he dominated in a lower tier mid major conference. Yet it was still D-1 and Santi also played for Spain’s U-18 team where he played alongside another 2021 first round draft pick big man in Usman Garuba, yet Santi won MVP not the higher draft pick Usman Garuba. Santi proved himself to be highly productive regardless of the competition and produced big games consistently across the board of competition. Santi was allegedly stashed in a sense, meaning he may not come over to Memphis right away, so there is only so much tape but certainly enough to prove he truly is what his stats indicates he may be or at least thus far.

If it comes down to battling with Jaren, Clarke and other forwards for the same minutes, Aldama could & should push Jaren to sink or swim in terms of roles and development in Memphis.

This kid is no joke offensively and if his game translates even near equivalent of his college career (or better) at the NBA level, we are talking about a next generation level of star big man potential. Thus far Santi has displayed the physical and mental ability to be a unique playmaking stretch five with supreme height & length for his skill set. He already proved he has the mentality to be a consistent big time producer regardless of the competition.

NBA Player Comparison

Santi Aldama’s game is very comparable to that of Aleksej “Poku” Pokusevski & Memphis’ own Jaren Jackson Jr. His professional experience since age 14 makes him currently more cerebrally developed & calculated than Jaren & even Poku. Aldama could be the far more productive version of the former two if I must add but he must prove his game will translate on the next level. Jaren in particular has already proven so or at least to a certain degree. If Santi maxes out his potential and fits well with Jaren they will make for a deadly front court duo unlike anything in NBA history in terms of versatility and length.

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