Assessing Santiago Aldama and Jordan Burns

July 8th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Recently, Loyola (MD)’s 6-11 sophomore center Santiago Aldama decided to keep his name in the draft, and he will be staying in hopes of getting selected in the 2021 draft this year.  He’s an offensively skilled big man that has put up good numbers at a small school Division 1 college basketball team, but he has seldom faced high-end competition, and his team did not make it to the postseason this year.

I decided to watch him play in a March 14th basketball game against Colgate that took place in the Patriot League Conference Conference Tournament, and I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via Time for Basketball.  It also presented another opportunity to watch Colgate’s senior point guard, Jordan Burns play.  I had watched Burns play a couple of times, as I had seen his impressive highlight reel in his team’s 2019 NCAA Tournament loss to Tennessee, but he also recently struggled at the G-League Elite Camp, as he especially had an abysmal first game at that camp.  This was another chance for him to make a positive impression on me.  Here are my thoughts on how Aldama and Burns fared on this day, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Loyola (MD)’s Santiago Aldama showed some shooting and passing skills in his team’s loss to Colgate.
Rich Barnes/USA Today Sports, via Fansided’s Raptors Rapture)

Santiago Aldama had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Colgate, but he was able to show off some interesting skills in this game.  He showed off the ability to shoot and pass the basketball, but he also really struggled to defend in this match. Aldama showed a decent ability to score in the post.  He would drive hard to his right from the high post, and he would score on tough leaners around the basket.  He also will patiently handle the ball, which will allow him to draw fouls upon his defenders.  He backed his man down another time, but he missed on a contested, turnaround jumper.  Sometimes he will rush his shots, which would lead to misses.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Aldama was able to score on a couple of tip-ins after leaping up to grab offensive rebounds.  He also showed off the ability to knock down jumpers to showcase some floor spacing skills.  He ran quickly off the ball, as he was able to make a deep three effortlessly from way out.  On the other hand, he seemed to have a bit of a slow release, as he had trouble consistently knocking down shots on the move, and he especially struggled to make pull-up threes or when opponents would quickly close out on him.

Also, he displayed perhaps adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Aldama showed a solid ability to pass the basketball.  He is an unselfish player that can pass and handle the ball, and he would make drive and kick passes to find open shooters.  He also was able to throw a long pass to a teammate to set up a score on the break.  He also passes well in the post as well as off the dribble.  He can make drop-off passes when handling the basketball.  When posting up, he threw a nifty, behind-the-back pass across the paint to find a teammate down low due to possessing solid passing skills and court vision.  However, he would tend to get the ball poked away when driving to the hoop.  He’ll sometimes put on the blinders that can lead him to being vulnerable to committing ball-handling turnovers when looking to score in traffic.  On one play when posting up, he over-dribbled into traffic, and he didn’t recognize that defenders were collapsing on him, so a defender was able to poke a ball away from him to cause him to lose the basketball.  Another time, Aldama drove to the hoop, but he committed a charging foul that led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.

Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  Aldama would chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he also was able to save a loose ball to help his team get a defensive board due to making a good hustle play that time.  He also managed to tip a ball to a teammate to help his team get an offensive rebound.  On the other hand, early on, there was one play where he didn’t make enough of an attempt to try to get a defensive rebound, as he allowed his opponent to grab an offensive rebound in his area.

Defensively, he seemed to struggle considerably in this game.  For the positives, he is a fairly active help defender.  Aldama was able to block a shot off of a drive, as an opponent took an awkward shot and basically ran the ball into him.  Aldama also jumped on a loose ball that his teammate poked away to help his team get a steal.  He also deflected a pass out of bounds another time.

The biggest issue is that he really doesn’t try hard enough to guard shooters or attempt to defend out on the perimeter enough.  He’ll sometimes be the closest in proximity to an open shooter, but he’ll often not bother to guard or contest threes or mid-range jumpers, as he’ll often prefer to sag back in the paint in a drop coverage instead.  He had a tendency to not pick up a man if his opponent would look to shoot jumpers, and he would allow them to score easily from out there.  Another time, he over-helped in the paint as he over-rotated on a drive and was late to rotate back to his man, as he allowed an opponent to score on an open corner three.

He also had a tendency to not keep track of where his opponents would be, and even though his team would sometimes play zones, he would be caught ball watching and would forget about the backside, so he would lose track of cutters to allow scores to them.  In this game, he had a tendency to not make enough of an effort to contest shots despite being in the area to do so.  On a separate play though, he overcompensated by over-rotating, as he was too aggressive on the close out, which led him to get beat off the dribble, as he then trailed his man and allowed him to score on a mid-range floater.

Overall, Santiago Aldama is an offensively skilled big man that has shown promise as a potential stretch big and as a facilitator, as he’s shown the ability to shoot and pass the basketball.  He was quite productive throughout his career at an NCAA Division I, small school. On the other hand, he doesn’t have much experience in playing top-notch competition.  He’ll also need to be a more consistent shooter, and he will need to improve his decision-making skills on offense, and his defense.  Aldama may need to spend some time honing his craft in either the G-League and/or overseas to improve his game.  Currently, he is a second round prospect, and in a favorable scenario, he could end up being an effective rotation player similar to former Boston Celtics’ forward, Brian Scalabrine in the NBA.

Colgate’s Jordan Burns helped lead his team to a win over Loyola (MD) in the Patriot League Conference Tournament to help get his team an automatic berth to the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
John Munson/Associated Press, via WholeHogSports)

Colgate’s senior point guard, Jordan Burns played fairly well in his team’s win over Loyola (MD).  He excelled as a shooter and scorer, and is an agile, crafty playmaker that was able to get the shots he wanted on offense.  On the other hand, he also showed a tendency to over-dribble and some of his passes were off-target, which led him to also be turnover prone in this game.

Burns is a good shooter that showed a knack for scoring on pull-up jumpers.  He had a tendency to dribble around and lull his defenders to sleep, and then he would suddenly knock down a stunning pull-up jumper on them.  He excelled at scoring on pull-up jumpers from both the mid-range and from beyond the arc, and he also was able to dribble off of a screen to make a three in this game.  Burns also did a very good job of making his mid-range shots, and he was able to move off the ball to make an open, baseline mid-range jumper late in this match.

He also showed a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble.  Burns isn’t the fastest player, but he is a crafty scorer that tended to score on patient, strong right-handed drives to the hoop.  He also would find ways to draw fouls upon his defenders.  Sometimes though, he would over-dribble, as he would end up taking tough shots in traffic that would lead to misses.

He also showcased fairly average playmaking skills.  Burns showed that he can throw solid interior passes to find teammates on the move to rack up assists.  He also can make crisp passes off the dribble when he plays patiently.  He also threw a very long outlet pass to help set up a score for his team on the break.  However, he tended to throw long, inaccurate passes that would be tough for his teammates to handle, and he also threw a hasty pass into traffic that got intercepted another time.  He also would tend to over-dribble, as he would sometimes lose the ball, or get it poked away to commit turnovers.

Also, Burns was able to chase down several balls to help his team get defensive rebounds.  He also played adequate defense in this game.  Burns would poke balls away to help his team get a steal and a deflection.  He also leapt up to snag an inaccurate pass thrown by an opponent to get a steal another time.  However, he also can tend to be undisciplined defensively.  He was caught ball watching, as he spaced out and lost track of a cutter to allow a score.  He over-shot the gap when defending out on the perimeter, which led him to get screened, and it caused a scramble situation that led his team to allow a score.  Another time, he bit wildly on a pump fake, which caused a scramble situation that led his team to give up another basket.

Overall, Jordan Burns had a solid showing to help lead his team to both a win over Loyola (MD), and to a berth to the 2021 NCAA Tournament that day.  He is a crafty, skilled playmaker that can shoot and handle the basketball, but he will need to improve his decision-making skills on offense, as he’ll need to show that he can effectively run the point at higher levels.  In a favorable scenario, Burns could end up being an effective backup point guard in the league, similar to former Golden State Warriors’ point guard, Quinn Cook in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Colgate’s 6-5 junior guard, Tucker Richardson also played well in his team’s win over Loyola (MD).  He especially played well in the first half, as he excelled as a spot-up shooter, and he showed a knack for making threes from beyond the arc.  He also ran off of a ball screen to make a quick, spot-up three early on. Because he was making his threes, he also was able to score off the dribble, as well as off backdoor cuts.   He struggled to score on mid-range floaters, but he was effective as a shooter and scorer aside from that. Richardson also displayed solid playmaking skills.  He passed and handled the ball well, as he was able to make drive and kick passes to notch assists.  On one play though, he threw an inaccurate bounce pass once that trickled out of bounds.

Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  Richardson was able to get boards on both ends of the floor, and there was one play where he leapt up to get an impressive, one-handed defensive board, as he then quickly pushed the ball up the floor.  On one play, he didn’t properly box out his opponent, as his man was still able to get around him to get both the offensive rebound past him, as well as to score a put back on him.

Also, Richardson played satisfactory defense in this game.  He would get his hands on passes to get steals and deflections, and he also jumped on a loose ball that a teammate poked away to help his team get another steal.  He also would contest threes to force misses, and he also rotated to contest a drive to get a stop another time.  Sometimes though, he would give up too much space to shooters, and there would be times where he wouldn’t even contest shots, which would cause him to allow baskets to his opponents.  Another time, he was called for an aggressive reach-in foul when defending an opposing ball handler around the midcourt.

Overall, Tucker Richardson is a skilled shooter and playmaker that also was active at getting his hands on balls to help get stops defensively.  He doesn’t possess elite physical tools, but he tended to make sound plays on offense.  He will need to make a more concerted effort to defend shooters in games, but his ability to shoot and pass the basketball could allow him to carve out a solid playing career in professional basketball one day.

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